META-GAIA INTRODUCTION & SITEMAP         page initiated: 07 23 12 - update: 09 18 2014

Note: My maya-gaia website, evolving since 1997, is a chronicle of my passing all considered opinion
through the lens of my Nirvikalpa Samadhi with both an open-mind and healthy skepticism.


References showing graphic descriptions of the history and future of inflation of our universe from data provided by COBE in 1992, Planck in 2010 and the nine-year observations of WMAP published in 2012.


Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe Wikipedia: WMAP is a spacecraft which measures differences in the temperature of the Big Bang's remnant radiant heat - the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation - across the full sky. The WMAP mission succeeds the COBE space mission and was launched 2001 and retrieved 2009. In 2012, the Nine-year WMAP data and related images were released and the study found that "95-percent" of the early universe is composed of dark matter and energy, the curvature of space is less than 0.4 percent of "flat" and the universe emerged from the cosmic Dark Ages "about 400 million years" after the Big Bang.


Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) Examining small areas of the Cosmic Microwave Backgroun (CMB), very small fluctuations are seen. Though these fluctuations are only at the part-per-million level, they are enough to produce variations in density, and thus determine where matter is more likely to coalesce due to gravity, eventually producing larger and larger lumps of matter. NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite first discovered these slight variations by in 1992. The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) provided much greater detail.

Cosmic Dawn

Cosmic Dawn National Geographic Magazine, April, 2014 by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee Photographs by Dave Yoder. Witnessing the birth of stars would require a telescope larger in diameter than many cities. Say hello to ALMA. Located on a plateu in the Atacama desert of Peru, ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array) When completed next year there will be one large and a smaller array with a total of 80 gigantic antennas each weighing a hundred tons that need to swivel together on command and point at the same target in the sky within a second and a half of one another. To merge their signals coherently, a massive supercomputer had to be installed on-site that was capable of adjusting, to within the width of a human hair. When all of the antennas come on line later this year, ALMA will penetrate the curtains of dust and gas that shroud galaxies, swirl around stars, and stretch through the expanses of interstellar space and conjure even finer details for graphic renderings of cosmic inflation after the big bang.


Click on image for full-sized version.

Cosmic Questions NaGeo animated presentation from the Big Bang to Multiverses


A Short History of the Universe
Excerpted from New Eyes On the Universe National Geographic Magazine
by Bradford A. Smith (subscription online archive), January, 1994

Although the Hubble garners the most attention, another orbiting observatory has sent back pehaps the most profound data. A satellite called COBE, or the Cosmic Background Explorer, has strongly supported the theory that the universe began expanding in a great explosion nicknamed the big bang.

Cosmologists speculate that before the big bang all of space - the totality of our universe - was an extremely concentrated speck far smaller than an atom. Perhaps our universe was but one part of a foam of tiny black holes, some of which occasiounally exploded. No one knows - and we may never know. If our current understanding of physics is correct, all history of that initial, infinitesimal slice of time is irretrievably lost. And our knowledge of the events that followed soon after depends on the insight of theoriests, on mathematics, and on experiments using high-energy particle accelerators. While still a speck, cosmologists calculate, the universe would have had a temperature of a million trillion trillion degrees. Ordinary matter did no exist under those conditions. Our familiar laws of physics did not apply.

As that speck expanded, it cooled, and the components of the universe we know began to emerge. By the time the universe was one second old, protons, neutrons, and electrons - the building blocks of atoms - had come into being. So had photons. But the stew of matter and energy was so concentrated that photons could not move about within it. Not until the universe was 300,000 years old did light break away from matter and begin to travel freely through our expanded speck of space. The moment of light's emancipation left a faint haze of photons - an afterglow of the big bang. Called cosmic background radiation, it permeates the universe. The haze is extremely cold now, 2.7 Kelvins, or minus 455 degrees F. First detected in 1964, its structure is being revealed by extremely sensitive microwave detectors, like those carried into orbit by COBE in 1989. COBE had a major question to resolve: Why are we here? "matter isn't distributed evenly in the universe today," explains John Mater, COBE chief scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "It's clumped into stars and galaxes and planets like earth." Gravity formed those structures, but there must have been an initial unevenesss for it to act on. We should see that in the afterglow of the big bang. Before COBE we couldn't. "Our earth-based detectors were getting more and more sensitive," says Mather, "but we just kept seeing the same thing - smooth, homogeneous radiation all across the sky."

If COBE saw from space only smooth radiation, then the entire big bang scenario would be threatened. A mild panic set in when the first data came back. Thje radiation still looked homogneous. Then over months, as more data were processed, huge patches emerged in which the temperature of the background photons varied by a few hundred-thousanths of a degree. Not much, but enough to silence those who were ready to re-write the physics of the early universe. The COBE results have raised some new questions about details of the big bang scenario, but most theorists believe the satellite has buttressed it at its weakest link. Many now regard the question of the mysterious "dark matter" as the most burning issue in astrophysics.

Here again, a new international orbiting X-ray observatory named ROSAT, or Roentgen Satellite, for the German physicist who discovered X rays, has found new evidence for the existence of dark matter. Examining three galaxies known as the NGC 2300 Group, ROSAT detected a huge cloud of plasma, or ionized gas, glowing in X rays around the group. "That cloud," explains astronomer David Burstein of Arizona State University, "is much too immense for the group to gravitationally hold onto - unless the group has 15 to 25 more mass than we can see."

Dark matter - or a least its effects - had been revealed.

The First Glimpse of the Hidden Cosmos National Geographic Magazine Jan. 2015 by Timothy Ferris. Cosmologists have now concluded...that all the stars and galaxies they see in the sky make up only 5 percent of the observable universe. The invisible majority consists of 27 percent dark matter and 68 percent5 dark energy. Both of them are mysteries. When quntum theorists try to calculate how much energy resides in, say a quart of seemingly empty space, they get a big number. But astronomers calculating the same quantity from their dark energy observations get a small number. The difference between the two numbers is staggering: it's ten to the 121st power, a one followed by 121 zeroes, an amount far exceeding the number of stars in the observable universe or grains of sand on the planet. That's the larget disparity between theory and observation in the entire history of science. Clearly something fundamentally important about space -and therefore about everything, since galaxies, stars, planets, and people are made mostly of space - remains to be learned. See also: windows into evolution of dark energy Nat Geo Graphics

See 2010 update on NASA's WMAP After COBE - NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) was decommissioned in October of 2010 after 9 years of flight that produced greater detail about the evolution and structure of the universe.

National Geographic Inflation Diagram, 2010

Once upon a timeless, most cosmologists believe, all that is our universe was incredibly small and dense. Neither space nor time as we know then existed.


Clik on image for download of full-sized image with icons to match captions.

(1) Nothing is known of this earliest instant. Scientists use the term big bang to describe this moment of creation. Somehow the universe - all matter, energy, space, and time exploded from the original singularity.

(2) Because time did not yet exist, there is no way to measure this event, but scientists have agreed to start the universal clock at Planck time - a moment defined as 10-43 second, which is a decimal point followed by 42 zeroes and a 1. Named for the father of quantum physics, Planck time is the point at which the universe begins to differentiate.

(3) Gravity becomes a separate force, tearing away from the other still unified basic forces of nature.

(4) Separation of the strong force (10-36 second). Although atoms do not yet exist, the force that will hold their nuclei together becomes an individual entity.

(5) Inflation (10-36 to 10-32 second). Triggered by separation of the strong force, the universe expands more in this instant than it has in the roughly 15 billion years since.

(6) Quarks and antiquarks (10-32 to 10-5 second). As inflation ends, the still expanding universe now teems with quarks and antiquarks the smallest known constituents of matter along with electrons (L in the illustration) and exotic particles (W and Z). Quarks and antiquarks annihilate each other upon contact. But a surplus of quarks one per billion pairs survives. This surplus of quarks will ultimately combine to form matter. At 10-12 second the final two forces split off.

(7) Electromagnetism - the attraction of negatively and positively charged particles is carried by photons, the basic units of electromagnetic energy.

(8) The weak force controls certain forms of radioactive decay.

(9) Quark confinement (10-5 second). As the universe cools to one trillion K, trios of quarks form protons and neutrons.

(10) Nucleosynthesis (less than one second to three minutes). Cooling continues. Protons and neutrons bind to form the nuclei of soon-to-be-formed atoms.

(11) Energy domination (10-32 second to 3,000 years). Because of high temperatures, radiant energy generates most of the gravity in the universe during this period.

(12) Matter domination (3,000 years onward). With cooling, matter becomes the primary source of gravity. Matter begins to clump and form structures. In theory, particles of so-called dark matter (depicted as gray bubbles) would have come into existence by this time. They may account for as much as 99 percent of all matter.

(13) Decoupling (300,000 years). Continued expansion and cooling allow matter and electromagnetic energy to go their separate ways. Nuclei capture electrons to form complete atoms of hydrogen, helium, and lithium. The universe becomes transparent: Radiant energy, or photons, travels freely. These photons now exist throughout the universe as microwave radiation. They reveal ripple-like concentrations of primordial matter - seeds for the structure of the universe that arose during the era of inflation.

(14) The ripples are shown in a 1992 COBE satellite image.

(15) Galaxy formation (200 million years onward). Matter continues to clump in the areas of concentration and over eons is condensed by gravity.

(16) This gives rise to quasars pictured in a radio image emitting bursts of energy.

(17) Quasars emitting galaxies.

(18-19) Continued expansion of the universe. Galaxies cluster in an overall structure of sheets separated by huge voids containing relatively few galaxies.

Big Bang's "Smoking Gun" Observations confirm "inflation" of early universe to cosmological sizes in early instant by Dan Vergano National Geographic Magazine, March 17, 2014. Astronomers find surprisingly strong gravitational waves rippled through the fiery aftermath of the Big Bang, confirming that the cosmos grew to a stunningly vast size in its very first instant. The finding means that in little more than a century, humanity has figured out not only the age of the universe—it was born about 13.82 billion years ago in the Big Bang but also how its birth unfolded. Gravity waves are distortions in the fabric of space-time predicted by Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity. The gravitational waves travel at the speed of light, but they are so weak that scientists expect to detect only those created during colossal cosmic events, such as black hole mergers like the one shown above. LIGO is a detector designed to spot the elusive waves. See also: Proof of Big Bang Seen by Space Probe

2MASS_LSS_chart The image is derived from the 2MASS Extended Source Catalog (XSC) - more than 1.5 million galaxies, and the Point Source Catalog (PSC) - nearly 0.5 billion Milky Way stars. The galaxies are color coded by redshift obtained from the UGC, CfA, Tully NBGC, LCRS, 2dF, 6dFGS, and SDSS surveys (and from various observations compiled by the NASA Extragalactic Database), or photo-metrically deduced from the K band. Blue/purple are the nearest sources; green are at moderate distances and red are the most distant sources that 2MASS resolves. The map is projected with an equal area Aitoff in the Galactic system (Milky Way at center).


Click for enlarged view

Observations of the CMB will continue with the Planck mission which has more frequencies, better sensitivity, and better angular resolution than WMAP.

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