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Big Bang’s afterglow reveals older universe

518342442-1660Cosmologists have released the most detailed “baby picture” yet of the early universe, a portrait that helps answer some of the deepest questions of science while providing enough surprises to keep scientists busy for years.

The images captured by a space telescope show the universe is 13.8 billion years old, 100 million years older than previously estimated. The results also reinforce a key theory scientists have about how the universe was formed, exploding from subatomic size to its current expanse in what one scientist described as “one nano-nano-nano-nano second after the Big Bang.” And they also revise estimates of how much matter and mysterious dark energy make up the universe.

The images form the most accurate and detailed map ever made of the oldest light in the universe, what scientists call the cosmic microwave background, a sort of afterglow left over from the Big Bang. That ancient light has traveled for billions of years from the very early universe to reach Earth. The patterns of light represent the seeds of galaxies and clusters of galaxies seen today.

Click here to read more from this March 21, 2013 Washington Post story by Lena H. Sun and Brian Vastag.

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