Planck telescope reveals ancient cosmic light
2010-07-06 0:00

By Jonathan Amos | BBCNews.co.uk


ESA, HFI, and LFI Consortia


This is the extraordinary place where we all live - the Universe.

The picture is the first full-sky image from Europes Planck telescope which was sent into space last year to survey the "oldest light" in the cosmos.

It took the 600m-euro observatory just over six months to assemble the map.

It shows what is visible beyond the Earth to instruments that are sensitive to light at very long wavelengths - much longer than what we can sense with our eyes.

Researchers say it is a remarkable dataset that will help them understand better how the Universe came to look the way it does now.

"Its a spectacular picture; its a thing of beauty," Dr Jan Tauber, the European Space Agencys (Esa) Planck project scientist, told BBC News.

Dominating the foreground are large segments of our Milky Way Galaxy.

The bright horizontal line running the full length of the image is the galaxys main disc - the plane in which the Sun and the Earth also reside.



- Planck is surveying the famous Cosmic Microwave Background
- This ancient lights origins date to 380,000 years after the Big Bang
- It informs scientists about the age, contents and shape of the cosmos
- Plancks measurements will be finer than any previous satellite
- The observatory makes its map by rotating and scanning the sky
- Plancks mission goal is to scan the sky at least four times
- Planck achieves ultra-cold state
- Satellite prepares to go super-cold


In the way
This is where most stars in the Milky Way form today; but because this picture records only light at long wavelengths (microwaves to the very far infrared), what we actually see are not stars at all.

Rather, what we see is the stuff that goes into making stars - lots of dust and gas.

Of particular note are the huge streamers of cold dust that reach thousands of light-years above and below the galactic plane.

"What you see is the structure of our galaxy in gas and dust, which tells us an awful lot about what is going on in the neighbourhood of the Sun; and it tells us a lot about the way galaxies form when we compare this to other galaxies," observed Professor Andrew Jaffe, a Planck team member from Imperial College London, UK.

But as beautiful as the Milky Way appears, its emission must be removed if scientists are to get an even better view of its mottled backdrop, coloured here in magenta and yellow.

This is the famous cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, and a key target of the Planck mission.

The CMB is the "first light". It is the light that was finally allowed to move out across space once a post-Big-Bang Universe had cooled sufficiently to permit the formation of hydrogen atoms.

Before that time, scientists say, the cosmos would have been so hot that matter and radiation would have been "coupled" - the Universe would have been opaque.

Super-cold detectors

Researchers can detect temperature variations in this ancient heat energy that give them insights into the early structure of the Universe and the blueprint for everything that came afterwards.

A major quest for Planck is to find firm evidence of "inflation", the faster-than-light expansion that cosmologists believe the Universe experienced in its first, fleeting moments.

Theory predicts this event ought to be "imprinted" in the CMB and its detail should be retrievable with sufficiently sensitive instruments.

Planck is designed to have that capability. Some of its detectors operate at a staggering minus 273.05C - just a tenth of a degree above what scientists term "absolute zero".

Planck is already in the process of assembling a second version of the map. It has funding to acquire at least four versions.

"We know that eventually as the data get better and better, what you end up getting to are the limitations of what you know about the instrument," explained Professor Jaffe.

"And so, by running Planck for longer we can learn a lot more about the instrument itself and thereby remove a lot of the contaminating effects that are just because of the way it produces its noise."


Read the full article at: news.bbc.co.uk



Related Articles
"Impossible" Star seen by Euro space telescope
Vatican tied Mount Graham Observatory launches LUCIFER Telescope
Location chosen for European "Extremely Large Telescope"
Spacewalking Astronauts Seen With a Backyard Telescope (Video)
Implantable Telescope for the Eye
MIT To Lead Development Of New Telescopes On Moon


Latest News from our Front Page

Amid Russia tensions, US nuclear bombers to conduct military drills in Sweden
2015-05-28 4:23
The Pentagon is planning to send nuclear bombers to Sweden for a military exercise next month amid growing tensions with Russia over the Ukraine crisis. The warplanes, the B-52 Stratofortress, will participate in a naval exercise on June 13, Swedish general Karl Engelbrektson said. They are set to fly from the United States nonstop and simulate a drop of anti-ship mines near ...
'Netanyahu to US: Give 50% more money, we'll shut up'
2015-05-28 4:55
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is asking the United States to provide Tel Aviv 50 percent more money for weapons and “we’ll shut up” on Iran nuclear talks, an author and investigative journalist in Philadelphia says. Dave Lindorff made the remarks in a phone interview with Press TV on Wednesday while commenting on a report which says Israel has asked Washington ...
Britain To Outlaw "Hate" and "Extremism"
2015-05-28 1:53
UK home secretary Theresa May : "But what we're talking about is they key values that underline our society and are being undermined by the extremists. Values like democracy, a belief in democracy, a belief in the rule of law. A belief in tolerance ...eh... for other people. Equality and acceptance for other people's faith and religions. One of the great ...
Killer robots will leave humans 'utterly defenceless' warns professor
2015-05-28 1:08
Robots, called LAWS – lethal autonomous weapons systems – will be able to kill without human intervention. Killer robots which are being developed by the US military ‘will leave humans utterly defenceless‘, an academic has warned. Two programmes commissioned by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are seeking to create drones which can track and kill targets even when ...
Here's how much corporations paid US senators to fast-track the TPP bill
2015-05-28 1:21
Critics of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership are unlikely to be silenced by an analysis of the flood of money it took to push the pact over its latest hurdle. A decade in the making, the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is reaching its climax and as Congress hotly debates the biggest trade deal in a generation, its backers have turned on the ...
More News »