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The geometry of the universe is "open" or negatively curved like a saddle, according to a new model proposed by researchers in Europe who have studied anomalies in the cosmic microwave background radiation. The anomalies were first detected by NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) in 2004 and were confirmed earlier this year by the European Space Agency's Planck space mission.

Cosmologists believe that when the universe was very young – a mere 10–35 s after the Big Bang – it underwent a period of extremely rapid expansion known as "inflation". About 380,000 years after the Big Bang, the cosmic microwave background (CMB) – the thermal remnant of the Big Bang – came into being. Physicists had expected the temperature of the CMB to be the same everywhere but for almost 10 years, evidence of a puzzling CMB anomaly has grown. It is becoming clear that the experimentally observed temperature fluctuations in the two hemispheres of the sky are slightly different. This means that the density of matter and energy seems to vary more strongly on one side of the sky than on the other.

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