The European Space Agency has released images taken by the Planck space telescope showing a heat map of what the universe looked like at just 370,000 years old when it was a wee little baby.
370,000 years was when the first atoms formed, emitting light and beginning to fill the universe with matter. The adorable speckles represent spots from which whole galaxies would grow over millions of years.
The Planck telescope gathered information by detecting “cosmic background radiation,” leftover heat and light that’s still lingering in the universe from the Big Bang. After 13.8 billion years—the new estimated age of the universe—the microwaves were just 2.7 degrees above absolute zero.
New York Times explains the significance:
The microwaves detected by the Planck date from 370,000 years after the Big Bang, which is as far back as optical or radio telescopes will ever be able to see, cosmologists say. But the patterns within them date from less than a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, when the universe is said to have undergone a violent burst of expansion known as inflation that set cosmic history on the course it has followed ever since. Those patterns are Planck’s prize.