Polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background

Planck_planck15-002i_1024

planck_planck15-002i February 5th, 2015

Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

A visualization of the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB, as detected by ESA's Planck satellite over the entire sky.

The CMB is a snapshot of the oldest light in our Universe, imprinted on the sky when the Universe was just 380 000 years old. It shows tiny temperature fluctuations that correspond to regions of slightly different densities, representing the seeds of all future structure: the stars and galaxies of today.

A small fraction of the CMB is polarized it vibrates in a preferred direction. This is a result of the last encounter of this light with electrons, just before starting its cosmic journey. For this reason, the polarization of the CMB retains information about the distribution of matter in the early Universe, and its pattern on the sky follows that of the tiny fluctuations observed in the temperature of the CMB.

In this image, the colour scale represents temperature differences in the CMB, while the texture indicates the direction of the polarized light. The patterns seen in the texture are characteristic of E-mode polarisation, which is the dominant type for the CMB.

For the sake of illustration, both data sets have been filtered to show mostly the signal detected on scales around 5 on the sky. However, fluctuations in both the CMB temperature and polarisation are present and were observed by Planck on much smaller angular scales, too.

Provider: Planck

Image Source: http://planck.ipac.caltech.edu/image/planck15-002i

Curator: NASA Planck Science Center, Pasadena, CA, USA

Image Use Policy: Public Domain

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Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Subject - Distant Universe
Cosmology > Morphology > Cosmic Background
Planck_planck15-002i_1280
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ID
planck15-002i
Subject Category
D.6.1.3  
Subject Name
Credits
ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech
Release Date
2015-02-05
Lightyears
Redshift
Reference Url
http://planck.ipac.caltech.edu/image/planck15-002i
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Instrument
Color Assignment
Band
Bandpass
Central Wavelength
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
Equinox
Reference Value
Reference Dimension
12706, 6353
Reference Pixel
Scale
Rotation
Coordinate System Projection:
Quality
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
NASA Planck Science Center
URL
http://planck.ipac.caltech.edu
Name
Email
Telephone
Address
1200 E. California Blvd.
City
Pasadena
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
91125
Country
USA
Rights
Public Domain
Publisher
Publisher ID
planck
Resource ID
Metadata Date
2018-06-20T23:54:17Z
Metadata Version
1.1
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

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