The Planck space observatory was launched in 2009, and already has allowed astronomers and physicists a better view of the universe.

The European Space Agency has been deciphering the data of the cosmic microwave background to examine the leftover signs of what is called "The Big Bang," which is the prevailing theory on how the universe was formed.

The new data strengthens the "inflation" theory of those early moments, when the universe supposedly expanded rapidly. However, that also lends more credence to another theory about other parallel universes where the inflation did not happen, or was not as large as in our universe.

I know, that's a statement that takes some work to get your brain around. To make a long story short, watch the old TV series "Sliders" to get a better idea about alternate universes. Science fiction writers have all sorts of stories developed around the theory.

The other findings from the data (www.esa.int) show that the universe is about 80 million years older than thought - at about 13.81 billion years. Also, it seems to be expanding from that big bang at a slower rate than previously figured. The satellite also has given scientists a better idea of how much "dark energy" and "dark matter" makes up the universe (and they still don't know what that dark stuff is made of!).

As always, such announcements bring with them even more questions. That makes scientists very happy. Job security, y'know.

By the way, the space observatory is named after German scientist Max Planck. He won a Nobel Prize in 1918 for his foundational work on quantum theory.