Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Planck instruments ready for integration

Engineers are ready to begin integrating the scientific instruments into ESA's Planck satellite. The pair of instruments will allow the spacecraft to make the most precise map yet of the relic radiation left behind by the formation of the Universe.

The integration of Planck's two instruments marks a major milestone for the mission. "We have been working on the design of these instruments for 14 years. For most of that time we have been living in a paper world; to finally have them as pieces of hardware feels great," says Jan Tauber, the Planck Project Scientist.

Combined focal plane of Planck's two instruments

The instruments are the key to the mission. Working in tandem, they will significantly advance our knowledge of the Big Bang. During the Big Bang, all of space was a tremendously hot furnace, filled with particles and radiation. In the approximately 13 thousand million years since then, the Universe has expanded and the radiation has cooled to become microwaves.

The Planck spacecraft will use a 1.5 metre mirror to systematically collect the cosmic microwave background radiation from the whole sky, and feed it to the two instruments.

The two instruments detect the collected radiation in different ways. The Low Frequency Instrument (or LFI) will convert the lower energy microwaves into electrical voltages, rather like a transistor radio.

The High Frequency Instrument (or HFI) works by converting the higher energy microwaves to heat, which is then measured by a tiny electrical thermometer.

These signals will be analysed for tiny differences in strength. Such variations indicate differences in the density of matter in the early Universe. Slightly denser regions became the galaxies we see today, whereas the less dense areas became the great voids that fill parts of space. This pattern is influenced by the amount of normal matter, dark matter and dark energy that fills the Universe. So using Planck's maps, astronomers will be able to place the most stringent limits yet on the quantities of these three universal components.

There is even a possibility that Planck will detect a slight distortion of the microwave background caused by a suspected period in cosmic history, known as the inflationary epoch. Inflationary theory postulates that the entire Universe underwent a period of enormously accelerated expansion just after the Big Bang. If so, it would cause the whole of space to ripple in a highly specific way. This slight ripple might show up in the Planck data. "Of all the exciting science that we will do, this is the most exciting possible measurement of all," says Tauber.

Between now and Planck's launch in mid-2008, there remain a number of important, additional milestones. For example, the entire spacecraft must be tested at a special cryogenic facility built at the Centre Spatial de Liège, Université de Liège, Belgium. "This will be a big test for us and the satellite," says Tauber.

"The test is necessary because the instruments must be operated at extremely cold temperatures," says Thomas Passvogel, ESA Project Manager for Herschel and Planck. "In the case of HFI, the operating temperature is just one tenth of a degree above absolute zero."

On launch day itself, Planck will be lofted into space by an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Inside the nose cone, Planck will be keeping company with ESA's Herschel infrared space telescope. With a 3.5 metre mirror, Herschel will be the orbiting telescope with the largest mirror ever deployed in space. Together Planck and Herschel will survey the cold Universe. Instead of looking for the formation of the Universe, however, Herschel's primary mission will be to see the formation of stars and galaxies.

Thomas Passvogel | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Novel light sources made of 2D materials
28.10.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA
27.10.2016 | University of Oklahoma

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Steering a fusion plasma toward stability

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Bioluminescent sensor causes brain cells to glow in the dark

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Activation of 2 genes linked to development of atherosclerosis

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>