A brief post, this, simply to alert everyone to this absolutely stunning image.
The European Space Agency has a telescope called Planck. This marvellous technological beastie was sent about a million miles into space in August last year and proceeded to take the next ten months or so scanning the sky.
Why? Because of what maps like this (more will be forthcoming next year) can teach us about the universe, how it began, and and how galaxies, stars (and eventually us) began to form.
For those interested, the centre of the image is predominantly the Milky Way, with the blue bits being dust and the red bits being hot gas. The yellow bits are particularly interesting - they’re the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR), which can be thought of as the still-rippling echoes of the thunderclap made by the Big Bang. Initially completely uniform, it then developed differences in temperature and density - hence the mottled appearance in the picture.
Indeed, the presence of the CMBR is considered the best evidence we have of the Big Bang model of how our universe began - no other theories are able to explain it.
If you want more details, I’d suggest visiting the ESA’s website. Also, they have high-res images. Irresistible ones.
Happy space pr0n!