(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?
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
has some nice descriptions of the cosmic microwave background and its relation
to the evolution of the Universe.
Bret & Antara
for Ask an Astrophysicist