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The Question

(Submitted December 22, 2010)

If the universe is symmetrical, is it possible to use the WMAP spacecraft to map the universe before or after inflation?

The Answer

To be clear, it is only the observable universe that is seen to be roughly symmetrical, and the Universe as a whole (which is beyond the observable realm) may not be symmetric in its own right. WMAP can observe a region of the Universe as it was roughly 400,000 years after the Big Bang, which is also thought to be after the inflation era. The WMAP results can therefore give us the conditions of the Universe at 400,000 years old and we can use other observations (e.g., observations of distant galaxies and large-scale structure) to form a theoretical mapping of how the Universe has evolved from the Big Bang into its present state. We recommend viewing, which has some nice descriptions of the cosmic microwave background and its relation to the evolution of the Universe.

Bret & Antara
for Ask an Astrophysicist

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