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Sci/Tech

Danish researchers: The universe is older than we think

New data help scientists map the universe and can provide a valuable insight into the Big Bang


Precise measurements from the European Planck Satellite has provided the most accurate observations to date of the aftermath of the Big Bang (Photo: European Planck Satellite)

March 22, 2013
13:52

by Christian Wenande


Scientists from the Technical University of Denmark’s (DTU) space research programme have made a startling discovery that shows that the universe is not quite what we believed.

The research group revealed yesterday that it had developed a unique space telescope mounted on the satellite Planck that showed that the universe is much older and differently made up than previously believed.

Astrophysicist and head consultant Michael Linden-Vørnle told Politiken newspaper that the discovery can have a fundamental influence on our understanding of the universe's development and functions.

"Humanity has always laboured to find the most connected and probable explanation to how our world is put together,” Linden-Vørnle told Politiken. “A comprehension of nature’s secrets is what provides us with the opportunity to act for better or worse. With our discovery we’ve taken a step closer towards such an explanation.”

The groundbreaking results have been obtained thanks to incredibly precise measurements from the European Planck Satellite which, between 2009 and 2012, provided the most accurate observations to date of the aftermath of the Big Bang, which marks the birth of the universe.

Studying the faint glow of microwave rays that can be observed in the skies, scientists have been able to ascertain that the world’s beginnings should actually be dated to about 60 million years sooner than currently believed.

The researchers contend that the universe is actually 13.82 billion years old and not the approximately 13.20 billion years that the global science community has embraced.

Aside from the new age evaluation, the information gleaned from the Planck Satellite has also given researchers a keener look into the elements that make up the universe.

Some 4.9 percent consists of normal material such as what make up stars, planets and humans. An additional 26.8 percent consists of invisible dark matter which influences its surroundings with its gravitational pull, while 68.3 percent consists of what scientists call dark energy, which accelerates the expansion of the universe.

The new figures from Planck have changed the balance between dark matter and dark energy significantly from their previous estimated values of 22.9 percent and 72.5 percent, respectively, which is data that is invaluable for scientists who have long looked for more concise estimates of the universe’s age and make-up.

“With Planck’s measurements we have a unique insight into the processes that occurred all the way back to the micro-second before the Big Bang,” senior researcher, Hans Ulrik Nørgaard-Nielsen, said in a DTU press release. "Planck’s data is an exceptional tool to learn more about the extreme conditions that were present when our universe was born.” 

The satellites measurements have also given scientists the opportunity to learn more about the Milky Way, which contains our solar system, and other galaxies.

“The data will be a gold-mine of information for scientists throughout the world who work towards ascertaining the framework laws of the universe,” Nørgaard-Nielsen said.

The Planck Satellite was named after the German physicist Max Planck, who was the first to describe how an object with a specific temperature emits radiation, something the satellite observed in the after-glow of the Big Bang.



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