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Planck Space Telescope

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Planck is Europe’s first mission to study the relic radiation from the Big Bang.

The mission is named after the German physicist Max Planck, whose work on the behaviour of radiation and won the Nobel Prize in 1918.
The Planck satellite will observe the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB). This is the radiation released into the Universe by the Big Bang itself, about 14 thousand million years ago.
Planck will measure the temperature variations across this microwave background with much better sensitivity, angular resolution and frequency range than any previous satellite. The combination of these factors will give astronomers an unprecedented view of our Universe when it was extremely young - just 380 000 years old.
Planck’s maps will allow a number of specific investigations to take place:
  • The determination of the Universe’s fundamental characteristics, such as the overall geometry of space, the density of normal matter and the rate at which the Universe is expanding.
  • A test of whether the Universe passed through a period of rapidly-accelerated expansion just after the Big Bang. This period is known as inflation.
  • The search for ‘defects’ in space, for example cosmic strings, which could indicate that the Universe fundamentally changed state early in its existence.
  • Accurate measurement of the variations in the microwave background that grew into the largest structures today: filaments of galaxies and voids.
  • A survey of the distorting effects of modern galaxy clusters on the microwave background radiation, giving the internal conditions of the gas in the galaxy clusters. [1]
  • Planck will be launched in tandem with ESA’s Herschel space telescope with Ariane V rocket.
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