ESA's Planck microwave observatory is the first European mission designed to study the Cosmic Microwave Background – the relic radiation from the Big Bang.
Following launch on 14 May, check-outs of the satellite's subsystems were started in parallel with the cool-down of its instruments' detectors. The detectors are looking for variations in the temperature of the Cosmic Microwave Background that are about a million times smaller than one degree – this is comparable to measuring from Earth the body heat of a rabbit sitting on the Moon. To achieve this, Planck's detectors must be cooled to extremely low temperatures, some of them being very close to absolute zero (�.15°C, or zero Kelvin, 0K).
With check-outs of the subsystems finished, instrument commissioning, optimisation, and initial calibration was completed by the second week of August.
The 'first light' survey, which began on 13 August, is a two-week period during which Planck surveyed the sky continuously. It was carried out to verify the stability of the instruments and the ability to calibrate them over long periods to the exquisite accuracy needed.
The first light survey was completed on 27 August, yielding maps of a strip of the sky, one for each of Planck's nine frequencies. Each map is a ring, about 15 degrees wide, stretching across the full sky. Preliminary analysis indicates that the quality of the data is excellent.
Routine operations started as soon as the First Light Survey was completed, and surveying will now continue for at least 15 months without a break. In approximately 6 month's time, the first all-sky map will be assembled.
Within its allotted operational life of 15 months, Planck will be able to gather data for two full independent all-sky maps. To fully exploit the high sensitivity of Planck, the data will require a great deal of delicate adjustments and careful analysis. It promises to contain a treasure trove of data that will keep both cosmologists and astrophysicists busy for decades to come.
Jan Tauber | EurekAlert!
Magnetic field traces gas and dust swirling around supermassive black hole
22.02.2018 | Royal Astronomical Society
UMass Amherst physicists contribute to dark matter detector success
22.02.2018 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
22.02.2018 | Life Sciences
22.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
22.02.2018 | Earth Sciences