Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Introducing the “coolest” spacecraft in the Universe UK involvement in ESA’s Planck mission

12.02.2007
The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Planck mission, which will study the conditions present in our Universe shortly after the Big Bang, is reaching an important milestone with the integration of instruments into the satellite at Alcatel Alenia Space in Cannes, France.

Professor Keith Mason, Chief Executive Officer of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), who fund the UK involvement in the mission, said, “Planck presents a tremendous opportunity to further our knowledge and understanding of the parameters that control the functioning of our Universe. The integration of the instruments into the spacecraft is a significant milestone that marks a major step towards launch next year.”

Planck will travel back to the dawn of time to investigate with the highest precision ever the cosmic microwave background (CMB) – the remnants of the radiation that filled the Universe immediately after the Big Bang some 14 billion years ago. Planck will be sensitive to temperature variations of a few millionths of a degree and will map the full sky in nine wavelengths. The tiny differences in the CMB are like the marks in a fossil, revealing details about the organism they come from – in this case, the physical processes at the beginning of the Universe.

The mission will address a number of fundamental questions, such as the initial conditions for the evolution of our Universe’s structure, the nature and amount of dark matter and the nature of dark energy and the expansion of the Universe itself.

Planck involves an international collaboration of scientists and industrialists from around the World. UK scientists from the University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, Imperial College London, University of Manchester, Jodrell Bank and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory have key roles – with involvement in the planning of the mission as well as building hardware for the sensitive instruments onboard, the data analysis and the science operations after launch.

Professor George Efstathiou, a member of the Planck science team and co-investigator on the High Frequency instrument (HFI) on Planck, from the University of Cambridge said, “The accuracy of the instruments on board Planck will allow us to measure the temperature variations across the cosmic microwave background with much better sensitivity than ever before providing astronomers with an unprecedented view of our Universe when it was extremely young – just 300,000 years old.”

Planck carries a 1.5 metre diameter telescope that feeds the microwave radiation to two instruments which will image the sky at different frequencies:- the Low Frequency Instrument (LFI) consisting of an array of ultra sensitive radiometers and the High Frequency Instrument (HFI), an array of highly sensitive microwave detectors known as bolometers.

The conditions that Planck will be studying present real challenges when it comes to the technological requirements of the instruments onboard. In order to achieve its science objectives, Planck’s detectors have to operate at very low and stable temperatures. The spacecraft is equipped with a sophisticated cryogenic cooling system which cools the instruments to levels close to absolute zero (-273.15 degrees C), ranging from -253 degrees Celsius to only a tenth of a degree above absolute zero.

Dr Tom Bradshaw from CCLRC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory works on the cooling system developed for the High Frequency Instrument. He comments, “Planck presents real technological challenges with regard to the temperatures that the instruments need to operate at. The spacecraft has a layered cooling system, akin to a Russian doll, which keeps the instruments cooled so that their own heat does not interfere with the science measurements.”

After integration which is due to be completed by the end of February, Planck will move to Liege in Belgium to undergo a series of tests to measure the performance of the instruments at extreme temperatures. Planck is scheduled to be launched on 31st July 2008 on an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou in French Guiana. It will be launched in a dual configuration with Herschel, ESA’s mission to study the formation of galaxies, stars and planetary systems in the infrared. Once operational both missions will study different aspects of the “cold” cosmos providing complimentary information on previously unknown regions of the Universe.

Planck will build on the heritage of previous NASA CMB missions – Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) and Wilkinson Map Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) - the latter of which is still operating. Professor George Smoot, lead scientist for COBE, who was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on cosmic microwave background, is a co-investigator on Planck.

Gill Ormrod | alfa
Further information:
http://www.pparc.ac.uk

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute

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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>