In a 5 minute lightning-quick talk at the Royal Astronomical Society’s event, Dr Dave Clements told us about his work with the Cosmic Sculpture: a 3D print of our planets and the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB).

Presenting the CMB in a true 3D form that can be held in the hand and felt rather than viewed has many potential benefits for teaching and outreach work — and is especially relevant for those with a visual disability. After the Big Bang, it was differences in the temperature of the CMB that gave rise to to different densities in our lumpy universe. This lumpiness was what spawned the formation of structure in the universe, including everything from galaxies, galaxy clusters, and superclusters all the way down to planets, comets, and even dust. Representing these differences as bumps and dips on a spherical surface allows anyone to appreciate the structure of the early universe. For example, the famous “CMB cold spot”, which is an unusually low temperature region in the CMB, can be felt as a small but isolated depression. The files to reproduce the 3D artefacts was made available online by the team.

Read more about how you can hold a baby universe in your hands.

Image: A picture of the spherical resin model of the Cosmic Microwave Background, compared to three UK Sterling pound coins (1 penny coin, 20 pence coin, 10 pence coin)
The 3D printed CMB model. Source: “Cosmic sculpture: a new way to visualise the cosmic microwave background” by Clements et al., 2017 (IOP)
NanoTip: Cosmic sculpture – 3D printing our Solar System and Beyond
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