Researchers developed a new method for calculating the effect of Rayleigh scattering on photons, which could shed light on how our universe formed.

Rayleigh scattering is the process that causes the sky to appear blue when the Sun's photons are scattered by atmospheric molecules on the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the Univeristy of British Columbia reported. The CMB is light left over from the Big Bang that was created when electrons combined with protons and formed the first atoms.

"Detecting the Rayleigh signal is challenging because the frequency range where Rayleigh scattering has the biggest effect is contaminated by 'noise' and foregrounds, such as galactic dust," said lead author Elham Alipour.

The researchers used a variety of high-frequency channels to observe the CMB and isolate the Rayleigh signal, which could allow them to achieve a better understanding of the creation of our universe 13.6 billion years ago.

"The CMB sky is a snapshot of the early Universe, it is a single frame in the movie of the Universe, and we have shown that Rayleigh signal gives us another fainter snapshot of the same scene at a slightly different time," said co-author Kris Sigurdson.

The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Physical Review D under the title "Effects of Rayleigh scattering on the CMB and cosmic structure."