Planck telescope reveals ancient cosmic light
2010 07 06

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 Europe’s 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.

"It’s a spectacular picture; it’s a thing of beauty," Dr Jan Tauber, the European Space Agency’s (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 galaxy’s main disc - the plane in which the Sun and the Earth also reside.



- Planck is surveying the famous Cosmic Microwave Background
- This ancient light’s origins date to 380,000 years after the Big Bang
- It informs scientists about the age, contents and shape of the cosmos
- Planck’s measurements will be finer than any previous satellite
- The observatory makes its map by rotating and scanning the sky
- Planck’s 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

Stop creating a climate of fear!
2014 08 27
ok. listen up political correct people! if you’re someone who reflexively calls others “racists” or “neofascists” without first checking into whether or not they actually are, you need to STOP it, because you’re creating a climate of fear in which people are afraid to do their jobs. and now i’m not talking about some academics sitting comfortably in their ivy towers, ...
Gov. Jerry Brown to Mexican Illegals: ’You’re All Welcome in California’
2014 08 27
On Monday evening, California Governor Jerry Brown said all Mexicans, including illegal immigrants, are welcome in California. According to the Los Angeles Times, while introducing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who said America is "the other Mexico," Brown "spoke about the interwoven histories of Mexico and California." He "nodded to the immigrants in the room, saying it didn’t matter if ...
Election Posters in New Sweden
2014 08 27
Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has promised continued mass immigration at the expense of welfare reform and tax cuts. Reinfeldt’s Moderates party consequently does everything in their power to recruit immigrants’ votes. Placards for the forthcoming elections, widely distributed in immigrant-dominated enclaves in Sweden, has Arabic text, the language that now increasingly is dominating major parts of "New Sweden." In the ...
Gender Madness
2014 08 27
Gender Madness - RT RT: "Tanya, a mathematician from Sweden, is writing a blog about gender madness. She wants to find its origins. She discusses the topic with different people, meets some gender specialists and even considers conducting some experiments." Yes, this is a very erratic and "different" short film, but Kajsa Bergkvist, the girl making the film has a ...
Could Greece’s mystery tomb lie intact? Well-preserved headless sphinxes
2014 08 27
Well-preserved headless sphinxes hint that grave dating back to Alexander the Great Archaeologists are hopeful that an ancient mound in northern Greece could hold the untouched remains of an important senior official from the time of Alexander the Great. Excavations at the ‘incredibly important’ tomb have revealed a pair of sphinxes guarding the grave’s entrance. The two sculptures were found under an arch ...
More News »