The ESA’s Planck Space Telescope completed its mission on Saturday.
The mission was designed to peer into the detail of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) – the residual energy left after the Big Bang.
Planck also used its microwave detectors to gaze at the cold dust within our galaxy and beyond, detecting many new galaxy clusters in the distant universe. Some of these even appear to be interacting and merging to form even larger superclusters.
The first data from Planck was released last year and included the improved catalogue of galaxy clusters, though the first data set on its study of the CMB is yet to be released, though this will be made available to scientists outside the project in the early stages of 2013.
The mission was originally planned to make two surveys of the entirety of the sky over the space of 15 months. Planck performed better than expected and completed five surveys over 30 months, double the original mission expectancy.
The data released so far also reveals that stars in the universe were being formed at one thousand times the current rate, a fairly phenomenal statistic!
The telescope is equipped with two instruments:
- The High Frequency Instrument or HFI
- ow Frequency Instrument or LFI
These two instruments work in tandem to build up a highly accurate map of the CMB. Unfortunately the HFI is now offline as the spacecraft depleted the last of its coolant supply and has now warmed above the critical temperature required for the useful opperation of the detector. The LFI however is still in working order and will continue to provide additional data over the rest of the year.
No doubt the data from Planck will reveal many new interesting features of the universe over the next few years, I for one am very excited!
You can read more here.
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