The City as Creative Energy

May 17, 2011 by

As part of the Beyond Entropy project I spent last Friday evening at the Architecture Association with Carlos Villanueva Brandt discussing the City as Creative Energy. You can now see the resulting video

Fellow Planck scientist Prof Andrew Jaffe will be at the AA this coming Friday discussing the subject of ‘Time Travel – Shamanism to the Space Age’. More details available here.

Planck unveils the wonders of the Universe

January 13, 2011 by

It’s been a hectic few days here in Paris, and I’ve finally managed to find time to write about the results.  The Planck team has released results focussing on “foregrounds”, which the satellite has to look through to see the Cosmic Microwave Background.  This includes compact sources, which Planck doesn’t resolve in great detail, and also dust and gas between the stars in our own Galaxy.  Planck’s wide wavelength range, running from radio waves of 1 cm wavelength, to the far-infrared and submillimetre, with wavelengths of 0.3mm, means that it sees a wide variety of sources with a huge range of physical characteristics.  ESA has released the “Early Release Compact Source Catalogue”, containing over 15,000 objects, and now available for the entire astronomical community to utilise in their studies.

Meanwhile, here in Paris, astronomers from not just Planck, but also a wide range of other telescoipes and instruments, have been talking about the wide range of astronomical results relevant to the latest release of data.  I’m currently late for the first talk, so I’d better go and listen.  Much more information on the latest data and results is available on the UK Planck site, and also on the ESA site.  The results have also featured heavily in the News, such as Jonathan Amos’ excellent article on his BBC News blog.

The waiting is almost over…

January 6, 2011 by

All of us on Planck have got used to bring tight lipped about the results we’re getting. Next week, some of the security will relax as Planck will release it’s first data products and first scientific results.

The bad news is that there will be no cosmology in this release – all the science relates to ‘foreground’ objects.

The good news is that the objects that are in the ‘foreground’ as far as the CMB is concerned is everything else in the universe, so there’s a lot to talk about.

Planck will also be releasing it’s first source catalogs so there will not only be new results on a wide variety of topics, but there will also be data for non-Planck astronomers to work on.

So next week is a big week for Planck!

2010 in review

January 2, 2011 by

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 7,600 times in 2010. That’s about 18 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 5 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 50 posts. There were 3 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 2mb.

The busiest day of the year was March 17th with 996 views. The most popular post that day was Planck images of our Galaxy.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for planck, planck satellite results, planck mission, planck results, and planck satellite images.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Planck images of our Galaxy March 2010


New Results: First All Sky Images from Planck! July 2010
2 comments and 1 Like on,


Planck Completes First Survey of the Sky February 2010
1 comment


First Results from Planck Released! September 2009
1 comment


Planck moving forward July 2010

Planck moving forward

July 6, 2010 by

It’s rather ironic that the massively successful press release of the Planck all-sky maps came out yesterday when many Planck scientists were in Paris at the ‘Core Team’ meeting. I would have been there myself, and would have missed the chance of appearing on the BBC, if I hadn’t had to be at Imperial for an examiners’ meeting.

Now I’m at the core team meeting, seeing the latest work on Planck. There’s a lot of work being done and a lot of good things coming. Yesterday’s images are just a start, but we have a huge amount of work to do before things are finished.

New Results: First All Sky Images from Planck!

July 5, 2010 by

ESA today released the first all sky images from Planck. The first all sky survey was completed a few months ago, but it’s taken some time to get things processed to the stage where we can release images. So here it is – Planck’s first view of the whole sky!

The image is dominated by the dust in our own galaxy, seen in blue, but in the top left and bottom right you can see a more mottled structure which is the cosmic microwave background. The next all sky survey, currently being observed, and a lot of processing are needed to remove the foreground galactic emission and the emission of intervening galaxies and galaxy clusters before we can get a clear picture of the microwave background. That’s the point at which we will be able to see the exciting new results on cosmology that will come from Planck.

There’s a lot more to come as well, as this image shows, with information on our own galaxy and others. This overlay shows some more information about what we’re seeing and highlights well known objects and parts of the sky, as well as images already released from Planck.

More coverage available from ESA and the BBC.

Planck images of our Galaxy

March 17, 2010 by

A new press release from the European Space Agency presents some of the first new science from the planck satellite. We don’t have results from the microwave background yet – we need another 6 months to complete the second all sky survey and then a lot of time for data crunching for that – but what the new results show are exquisite images of cold dust in our own galaxy in what is the largest area submm survey so far made.

What can be seen here is the galactic plane itself – the line running horizontally across the image near the bottom – and the huge clouds of cool dust that rise far above the plane. Hints of these were first seen by the IRAS satellite, but the Planck observations are at much longer wavelengths and are thus able to find cooler dust and determine dust temperatures.

These results also highlight the synergy between Planck, which gives us the largest scale structures in the galactic dust, Herschel, which can show us smaller scale structures (see eg. here), and ground-based telescopes such as the JCMT which can work at still higher resolutions.

This is all just a taster of what Planck will produce, but there’s lots more work to be done, and observations to be made, before we get there.

Planck Completes First Survey of the Sky

February 28, 2010 by

On February 14th, Planck completed its first survey of the whole sky. But there was no rest – it immediately started on its second all-sky survey.

The nominal Planck mission is for two all sky surveys, with the second survey completed in 6 months from now. However, the satellite is using cryogens sufficiently sparingly that it’s capable of two further all sky surveys, for a total of 4. This will give it greater sensitivity, greater control of systematic effects, and a chance to extend its search for variable and moving, ie. solar system, objects. ESA has approved this extension, so the project will certainly go to 4 surveys. Quite what STFC, the UK astronomy funding body which is going through a series of financial crises, will do about this isn’t clear…

New Year, New Science

January 7, 2010 by

Planck is the top item in Nature‘s look at key events that may come from reserahc in 2010:

‘Planck peaks at the Universe’s Origin… Planck… could alter theories about the origin and structure of the early universe’.

I’m not sure we’ll be releasing too many results in 2010, but it’s good to see the scientific potential of Planck recognized in Nature‘s list!

News from Herschel and the UK

October 2, 2009 by

New images from Herschel have been released today. You can read about them and about some worries about future UK astronomy funding over on our sister Herschel mission blog.