The Universe's Cosmic Microwave Background
The universe's cosmic microwave background

Ancient light in the sky from the primordial universe moments after the Big Bang has been captured and mapped by the Planck telescope satellite.

The telescope has delivered the most detailed ever picture of cosmic microwave radiation - the afterglow of the Big Bang which triggered the creation of the universe - and caused astrophysicists to rethink what they know about the universe and add 50 million years on to its age.

The blue, yellow and red map depicts radiation according to how warm or cold it is based on when the universe was still a baby - about 380,000 years after the Big Bang. The image is of light from when the average temperature was 2,700C.

The map has triggered a rethink about our fundamental understanding of universe by adding 50 million years to the age of the universe - making it 13.82 billion years old.

There also appears to be slightly more matter in the universe and less so-called "dark matter" than previously thought. Dark matter is the mysterious force believed to behind the expanding universe, but which cannot be seen.

The European Space Agency's Planck telescope is positioned about one million miles from Earth.

Cosmic microwave background radiation is detectable on Earth and comprises part of the static noise heard on detuned analogue radio and TV devices.

On the map, the colour differences are believed to denote fluctuations in mass and indicate where coalesced matter which went on to form stars and galaxies. These places got stretched to cosmically large sizes by the universe's expansion.

Planck telescope
Planck telescope

ESA director general Jean-Jacques Dordain said: "The extraordinary quality of Planck's portrait of the infant universe allows us to peel back its layers to the very foundations, revealing that our blueprint of the cosmos is far from complete.

"Such discoveries were made possible by the unique technologies developed for that purpose by European industry.

Cambridge University expert George Efstathiou said: "Since the release of Planck's first all-sky image in 2010, we have been carefully extracting and analysing all of the foreground emissions that lie between us and the universe's first light, revealing the cosmic microwave background in the greatest detail yet."