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A full-sky map of the oldest light in the universe.
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Image courtesy NASA/WMAP Science Team

The Oldest Light in the Universe
News story originally written on February 14, 2003

NASA scientists have taken a "snapshot" picture of the oldest light in the universe. The image shows the remains of light emitted during the big bang, which is now microwave energy. The light is over 13 billion years old!

The image was created using data from a spacecraft called the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). WMAP was launched in June 2001, and will collect data for 3 more years. Scientist has used data from WMAP to make the best measurement so far of the age of the universe. According to the scientists, the universe is 13.7 billion years old, plus or minus one percent. They were surprised to learn that the first stars to shine in the universe ignited only 200 million years after the big bang, which is much earlier than they expected.


Last modified February 14, 2003 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF