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Hey, baby! (Space/Big Bang Theory).

What if you shot a Polaroid of your grandma and the camera spit out her baby picture? Sound impossible? NASA astronomers have designed such a gadget--it's a satellite called the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). And it just snapped a picture of the universe as an infant.

The universe began as an unimaginably hot, dense soup of particles and energy. It later expanded and cooled to form stars, galaxies, and planets, according to a scientific theory called the Big Bang. "The Big Bang theory predicted that an afterglow radiation from the young hot era would still permeate the sky today," explains NASA astronomer Charles Bennett. This afterglow is called cosmic microwave background radiation.

WMAP captured the microwaves (high-frequency energy waves) and produced a detailed skymap of the early cosmos. From this and other measurements, scientists determined the universe was born 13.7 billion years ago. How much time is left? Twenty billion years, predict scientists.--KM

COSMIC HISTORY An afterglow emerged 380,000 years after the Big Bang. The universe inflated, or expanded, into the galaxies we now see.

INFANT UNIVERSE A satellite that sees energy left over from the Big Bang captured the universe at age 380,000.
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Title Annotation:the universe in its infancy
Publication:Science World
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 18, 2003
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