Light captured from the dawn of time shows the universe is older than was thought - but only by 48 million years. Scientists are analysing an imprint of radiation left behind by the 'Big Bang' that gave birth to the cosmos. As well as providing a more accurate age for the universe, at 13.82 billion years, it has revealed new mysteries and questions.
The image looks similar to a colourfully wrapped Easter egg and was produced by the European Space Agency's Planck telescope which has been studying the Cosmic Microwave Background for more than 15 months.
The super-sensitive £510 million Space telescope can detect tiny ripples in the CMB that represent the earliest seeds of stars and galaxies. They date back to when the universe was just 380,000 years old, making the glow of the CMB the oldest light ever seen.
European scientists say the quality of the new image of the infant Universe proves our blueprint of the cosmos is far from complete.
– Professor Richard Davis, University of Manchester's Planck team
But because the precision of Planck's map is so high, it has also revealed some unexplained anomalies in the data that require further study.
Among these interesting findings are fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background over large scales that do not match what the standard model of physics predicts, including an asymmetry in the average temperatures on opposite hemispheres of the skies.