Anomalies in the universe's relic radiation could contradict the evidence for a level cosmos
The temperature of the cosmic microwave background radiation fluctuates more on one side of the sky (the right side of this projection) than on the opposite side, a sign that space might be curved.
We live in a lopsided universe: That has been a lesson that cosmologists have learned from examining the detailed structure of the radiation left over from the Big Bang. Now, two cosmologists show that the data are consistent with a Universe that is curved slightly, similarly to a saddle. If their model is correct, it would overturn the long-held belief that the cosmos is flat.
On a large scale, precision measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) by NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe provided the first hints of an asymmetry in 2004. Some experts wondered whether the finding was a systematic error that would be corrected when the NASA probe’s successor, the European Space Agency’s Planck spacecraft, mapped the CMB again with higher precision. But the Planck results, announced earlier this year, confirmed the anomaly.
To explain those results, Andrew Liddle and Marina Cortês, both at the University of Edinburgh, UK, have now proposed a model of cosmic inflation — a hypothetical period of rapid expansion right after the Big Bang in which the Universe grew by many orders of magnitude in a small fraction of a second.
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