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13.73 Billion Years – The Most Precise Measurement of the Age of the Universe Yet

Article Updated: 26 Dec , 2015

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NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) has taken the best measurement of the age of the Universe to date. According to highly precise observations of microwave radiation observed all over the cosmos, WMAP scientists now have the best estimate yet on the age of the Universe: 13.73 billion years, plus or minus 120 million years (that’s an error margin of only 0.87%… not bad really…).

The WMAP mission was sent to the Sun-Earth second Lagrangian point (L2), located approximately 1.5 million km from the surface of the Earth on the night-side (i.e. WMAP is constantly in the shadow of the Earth) in 2001. The reason for this location is the nature of the gravitational stability in the region and the lack of electromagnetic interference from the Sun. Constantly looking out into space, WMAP scans the cosmos with its ultra sensitive microwave receiver, mapping any small variations in the background “temperature” (anisotropy) of the universe. It can detect microwave radiation in the wavelength range of 3.3-13.6 mm (with a corresponding frequency of 90-22 GHz). Warm and cool regions of space are therefore mapped, including the radiation polarity.

This microwave background radiation originates from a very early universe, just 400,000 years after the Big Bang, when the ambient temperature of the universe was about 3,000 K. At this temperature, neutral hydrogen atoms were possible, scattering photons. It is these photons WMAP observes today, only much cooler at 2.7 Kelvin (that’s only 2.7 degrees higher than absolute zero, -273.15°C). WMAP constantly observes this cosmic radiation, measuring tiny alterations in temperature and polarity. These measurements refine our understanding about the structure of our universe around the time of the Big Bang and also help us understand the nature of the period of “inflation”, in the very beginning of the expansion of the Universe.

It is a matter of exposure for the WMAP mission, the longer it observes the better refined the measurements. After seven years of results-taking, the WMAP mission has tightened the estimate on the age of the Universe down to an error margin of only 120 million years, that’s 0.87% of the 13.73 billion years since the Big Bang.

Everything is tightening up and giving us better and better precision all the time […] It’s actually significantly better than previous results. There is all kinds of richness in the data.” – Charles L. Bennett, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University.

This will be exciting news to cosmologists as theories on the very beginning of the Universe are developed even further.

Source: New York Times


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pantzov
Guest
pantzov
March 28, 2008 12:50 AM

ahhh such certainty in the article. smile

still highly interesting of course…

Peter B
Guest
Peter B
March 28, 2008 1:49 AM

Seems such a long time ago….
And yet……..

Mikel
Guest
March 28, 2008 4:24 AM

Wait until they finally are forced to admit that redshift is not an indicator of distance. Then the whole house of cards will come tumbling down.

olga
Guest
olga
March 28, 2008 4:55 AM

I am waiting for the creationists in the states to come up with a better explanation.
And I am also waiting to see how the limits of the current explanation called inflationary Big Bang will be overcome.
Dark matter and dark energy are just dummies without understanding.
Ian of course can make a dozen of articles from that unprecise ‘might and would’.

The good thing is that in the LOTF you have this funny creationists versus evolutionists wars.
Very amusing and so medieval.

Ian, wouldnt it be nice to have some report on that.

Filepromptdotcom
Guest
March 28, 2008 8:22 AM

you mean the earth is older than the Bible tells us?
Heresy!

Dave
Guest
Dave
March 28, 2008 6:44 AM
Lessee . . . 14+ billion years ago everything in the universe was in one place, in fact the whole universe itself was in one place, the only “Place” at all was all there. And “Bang” it all expanded. And when it expanded way back then it glowed, photons took off in all directions at the speed of , well of photons. And zipping away from “everything” these photons went. Now here we are 14 billion light years away from that point, and the photons are now just hitting us. But 14 billion years ago we were “there” not here. So how did the photons leave “there”, and we were there too becaue everything that ever was, is,… Read more »
Eric
Guest
Eric
March 28, 2008 6:50 AM

~ Wait until they finally are forced to admit that redshift is not an indicator of distance. Then the whole house of cards will come tumbling down.~

I’ve thought about that before.

I’ve half jokingly thought that once we actually see nothing because we’ve looked so far armageddon will happen.

On a serious note, would we in fact see the Big Bang should we reach that point? (If that is indeed the cause for all that exists?) Would we see what was before it? I guess that would go back to my half joking notion.

Eric
Guest
Eric
March 28, 2008 6:54 AM

Dave, that is something I’ve never once thought about. That’s a darn good question, man.

Hmm. I’ve got nothin for that.

Eric
Guest
Eric
March 28, 2008 7:03 AM

How about this. What if the universe expands until it can no longer go further and gravity pulls it back to a single point and when it does it explodes and expands again? Is it possible that the universe just “breathes” – for the lack of a better term? Right now it’s exhaling and expanding and 10-15 billion years from now it will start to inhale and contract?

Mikel
Guest
March 28, 2008 7:58 AM

If redshift is not an indicator of distance (see http://www.haltonarp.com), then there is no expansion, and the whole thing falls apart.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan
March 28, 2008 8:13 AM

Universal contraction is a possibility, but through constraints such as the age of the universe, it doesn’t seem likely. According to what we know, the universe is actually accelerating its expansion!

And I think the cosmic microwave background is as far back in time as we can see, because before that photons and electrons were coupled, creating a kind of “curtain” we can’t see past. When decoupling occurred, the photons were scattered for the last time and created what we see as the CMB.

I think I got it right, let me know if I misspoke or missed something.

Eric
Guest
Eric
March 28, 2008 8:30 AM

for realz

tacitus
Member
March 28, 2008 8:31 AM
Wow – the fringe is out in force this morning. Arp’s hypothesis started falling apart when we could finally see the host galaxies of the quasars he claims were local objects and not billions of light years away. Since they were also extremely red shifted, he was reduced to a lot of hand-waving that virtually no other astronomer takes seriously. That red shift as an indicator of distance is pretty much undeniable at this point, and while some creationists and others with pseudoscientific agendas of their own are holding out for another explanation, it is increasingly obvious that there’s little chance that they are even remotely correct. It is entirely likely that further tweaking of Big Bang theory… Read more »
Ray
Guest
Ray
March 28, 2008 8:31 AM

Dave,

Those photons we’re looking at didn’t start traveling towards us untill ~379000 years after the big bang. Before that the entire universe was opaque. So by that time there were plenty of other “places” from which the photons could travel towards us, and which were pretty far away. Considering also that the distance they are traveling between there and here has been expanding, (which is why they get here all stretched out) it makes perfect sence that some of them are only still just getting here.

David
Guest
David
March 28, 2008 8:34 AM

Here is a theory. Our universe is an atom in another universe that just happened to be subject to an atom-smashing experiment. The resulting explosion is taking (by our time) over 13 billion years to unfold. In our own atom-smashing experiments, we are giving birth to billions of universes like our own, and the resulting things we see (protons, muons, etc.) are actually large-scale structures in these smaller universes.
Maybe this is a crap theory, but it still beats the “made from a rib” myth. Its just not as marketable.

Eric
Guest
Eric
March 28, 2008 9:02 AM
I’m not trying to create an alternate genesis here, I’m just trying to be objectionable. I’m just a 25 year old average joe who thinks about astronomy opposed to most people my age who yammer about Paris Hilton’s clothing, jail stint or who she screws. I just saw on a History Channel documentary that there are actually 2 small galaxies colliding with our Milky Way. Is it possible that their individual gravities are having an effect on our galaxy’s speed through the universe; i.e. – slowing the Milky Way down; making it seem as though everything else around us is speeding up? So please understand that I’m just trying to think outside of the box and I’m not… Read more »
Craig DeForest
Guest
Craig DeForest
March 28, 2008 9:04 AM

Precise, not necessarily accurate…

Precision is a measure of a priori uncertainty. Accuracy is a measure of systematic error, which we have no independent means of estimating at this precision (since this is the most precise measurement yet).

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
March 28, 2008 10:21 AM

Can’t wait until we we can say that the universe was created on Tuesday, 13,732,551 BC…sometime in the afternoon!

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
March 28, 2008 10:21 AM

LOL…oops, not enough zeroes

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