Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

The waiting is almost over…

January 6, 2011

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!

New Results: First All Sky Images from Planck!

July 5, 2010

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

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

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

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!

First Results from Planck Released!

September 17, 2009

ESA has just announced the first results form the Planck satellite. The ESA release can be found here and some more images and information (if you can read French) can be found here, and similar extra details are also on the UK Planck site here. My colleague Andrew Jaffe also has his take on things here.

These first images of strips of the sky look great, and are visibly better than those from WMAP, the previous NASA CMB satellite. We have a lot more work to do to cover the entire sky. Only then can we start to look at the details of the microwave background and the Big Bang physics that this allows us to probe. But this is a great start to things!

The Planck First Light Survey

Minisurvey and First Results!

August 15, 2009

This weekend Planck should be moving from performance verification phase and into observations that are closer to full scale operations with the start of a minisurvey that will be very similar to (indeed, if all goes well, part of) the main all sky survey.

Meanwhile, the very first results from Planck have been presented at the International Astronomical Union General Assembly in Rio. These show a few scans around the sky and demonstrate Planck’s ability to detect the CMB ‘dipole’, which is due to Planck’s motion relative to the CMB frame of reference (this motion is due to the motion of Planck around the sun, the sun around the galaxy and of the galaxy relative to the background).

Sadly I don’t have any pictures of this yet as none have been released, but hopefully we will get something we can show you before long.