Yep, that innocuous-looking picture above is the whole freaking universe
, as perceived by the Planck telescope -- a long-wave light detector that's been catapulted into space to search for Big Bang clues. The European Space Agency
is using it in order to get the most precise information to date on Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (apparent in the image as the magenta and yellow mush in the, ahem, background), which could in turn enlighten us on the conditions that gave rise to all of us omnivores prowling a gravity-assisted, ozone-protected, floating rock. The first mapping run took just over six months to complete, but the plan is to produce four such images using the Planck's super-cold (nearly at absolute zero) sensors before retiring the thing. Results are expected no sooner than 2013, so please do slide back from the edge of your seat.