Planck results are here!

This morning an ESA press conference presented results from an analysis of the first 15 months of data from the Planck mission. The results are exquisite, and it’s clear that Planck will be as important for cosmology as its predecessors COBE and WMAP. Cosmologists will be poring over the data for years to come.

I’ll give more detail in future posts, but for the moment here are just two items.

First, the most detailed picture yet of the early universe:

Planck's stunning new map of the universe

Planck’s stunning new map of the universe (Credit: ESA)

Second, some of the stand-out points from this morning’s presentation:

  • The universe is slightly older than we previously thought (about 80 million years older in fact): it’s 13.82 billion years old.
  • Planck measures the Hubble constant to be 67 km s-1 Mpc-1. This is slightly smaller than most other recent estimates. Curious!
  • The energy inventory of the universe isn’t quite what we thought it was: there’s slightly more dark matter than previously thought and slightly less dark energy. The universe is currently made up of 4.9% normal matter, 26.8% dark matter and 68.3% dark energy.
  • On small scales, the standard cosmological model (which includes inflation) agrees supremely well with the observed cosmic microwave background. The standard cosmological model is in good shape.
  • There are hints, based on observations of the largest angular scales, of physics beyond our current theories. In particular: (i) the sky in the southern hemisphere is ever so slightly warmer than the sky in the northern hemisphere; (ii) large-scale temperature fluctuations are weaker than expected; and (iii) there’s a cold spot in the universe, in the constellation Eridanus, that’s much larger than our models would predict. Gaining an understanding of these anomalies is going to lead to some really interesting ideas over the next few years.