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Ancient dawn's early light refines age of universe

Satellite images reveal new aspects of Big Bang's relic radiation

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4:13pm, February 2, 2010

Six papers posted online present new satellite snapshots of the earliest light in the universe. By analyzing these images, cosmologists have made the most accurate determination of the age of the cosmos, have directly detected primordial helium gas for the first time and have discovered a key signature of inflation, the leading model of how the cosmos came to be.

The analysis, based on the first seven years of data taken by NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, also provides new evidence that the mysterious entity revving up the expansion of the universe resembles Einstein’s cosmological constant, a factor he inserted but later removed from his theory of general relativity. In addition, the data reveal that theorists don’t have the right model to explain the hot gas that surrounds massive clusters of galaxies.

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