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Summer Science Exhibition 2016 | Monday 4 July - Sunday 10 July | London

What happened at the Big Bang?

Hands-on at the exhibit

  • Use an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to explore the radio sky.
  • Listen to the early universe on our Planck hotline video phone.
  • Create your own model universe with simulated cosmic microwave patterns. How close can you get to our own universe?

Find out more

There is a faint glow of ancient light that permeates our universe, called the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). Our exhibit showcases findings from the Planck space mission to detect variations in the CMB, and reveals how they’re helping us to understand what happened in the first instants after the Big Bang.

For the first 380,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe was filled with hot, dense, opaque plasma. As the universe expanded the plasma cooled and became less dense, and the universe became transparent. The CMB is radiation originating from that time. Small variations in the brightness of the CMB represent the seeds from which stars, galaxies and planets were formed. Instruments on the Planck spacecraft precisely measured these fluctuations and have revealed that the first stars formed later than we’d thought (550 million years after the Big Bang). The quest to detect CMB patterns from Planck’s data continues, to teach us more about how the universe was born in the seconds and minutes after the Big Bang.

Find out more at the Planck website, explore chromoscope maps and try the interactive Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) simulator.

Presented by: University of Manchester, Cambridge University, Cardiff University, Imperial College London, Oxford University, University of Sussex