Mission Reveals End of Universe's 'Dark Ages,'Fate of Universe and Dark Matter

The universe had a period of “Dark Ages,” starting approximately half-a-million years after the Big Bang, and NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) has revealed the end of the Dark Ages. “We detected the end of the Dark Ages about 200 million years after the Big Bang,” said Edward L. Wright, professor of astronomy at UCLA, who helped develop key data analysis techniques for WMAP. “There were enough bright stars and quasars at that time to fill the universe with ultraviolet light and a haze of cosmic electrons. This is nearly 700 million years earlier than any of these objects has been seen before. WMAP measurements have enabled us to detect the era when the first stars formed.”

The Oldest Light in the Universe

NASA today released the best “baby picture” of the Universe ever taken; the image contains such stunning detail that it may be one of the most important scientific results of recent years. Scientists used NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) to capture the new cosmic portrait, which reveals the afterglow of the big bang, a.k.a. the cosmic microwave background.

S. Pole Telescope Produces Most Detailed Images of the Early Universe

Using a powerful new instrument at the South Pole, a team of cosmologists has produced the most detailed images of the early Universe ever recorded. The research team, which was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), has made public their measurements of subtle temperature differences in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation. The CMB is the remnant radiation that escaped from the rapidly cooling Universe about 400,000 years after the Big Bang. Images of the CMB provide researchers with a snapshot of the Universe in its infancy, and can be used to place strong constraints on its constituents and structure. The new results provide additional evidence to support the currently favored model of the Universe in which 30 percent of all energy is a strange form of dark matter that doesn’t interact with light and 65 percent is in an even stranger form of dark energy that appears to be causing the expansion of the Universe to accelerate. Only the remaining five percent of the energy in the Universe takes the form of familiar matter like that which makes up planets and stars.