Feeds

Universe very big: official

78bn light years and growing

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Ripples in the microwave radiation afterglow left by the big bang reveal that the universe is at least 78bn light years across.

Researchers led by Neil Cornish, a physicist at Montana State University, think they have at least partially answered one of the most fundamental questions in cosmology: how big is the universe?

Until now, estimates ranged between 'as big as we can see' through to 'infinite', depending on which model of the universe you happened to be looking at at the time. This research clearly marks the lower limit, even if it doesn't rule out infinity.

According to Nature, a recent suggestion was that the universe was shaped like a soccer ball, 60bn light years across. Other suggestions include the idea that the univese is indeed quote small, but is wrapped round itself, so we can't easily spot the edges.

"In principle, it would not be ridiculous to see light from the Earth that has wrapped around the Universe, so we could see the Earth as it was when, say, life formed 4 billion years ago," Cornish told Nature.

He then set about looking for a young Earth out there, somewhere. But where to look? As far back as possible, is the answer, which meant looking at data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). This can detect microwave radiation from the earliest days of the universe: just 379,000 years after the big bang.

In a small universe, light from the same source would arrive in the same place from different directions. This, the team calculated, would produce irregularities - hot and cold spots - in the radiation. The team found no spots, therefore, Cornish conlcudes, the universe is bigger than we can see with our equipment, and must be at least 78bn light years across.

He suspects it may be even bigger, and hopes closer inspection of the WMPA results will allow him to refine his calculations. This could push the universe's minimum size up to 90bn light years. ®

Related stories

Beagle 2 was 'poorly managed'
NASA moots robotic Hubble fix
Chocks away for NASA's Einstein test
Macclesfield centre of universe: official

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?