Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Planck unveils the wonders of the Universe

January 13, 2011

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.


2010 in review

January 2, 2011

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 and Herschel as seen from the ground

May 20, 2009

As they started on their way to L2, the Planck and Herschel satellites were observed from Earth.  The ESA “Optical Ground Station” on Tenerife, which is one of the stations that tracks ESA satellites and monitors their progress, observed them a few hours after launch and made this animation.  At this time – around 21:30 GMT on 14 May 2009, just over 8 hours after launch – they were 100,000 km from Earth.  That’s already a quarter of the distance to the Moon, but only around 1/15th of their final distance from Earth – L2 is 1,500,000 km from Earth.  They were also seen by the Faulkes Telescope in Australia.  In both images, there are 3 moving dots.  The two brighter ones are Herschel and Planck while the fainter one, which is quite close to Planck, is the SYLDA 5 fairing which separated the two spacecraft in the rocket.

Soon the spacecraft will be much, much further away, and much more difficult (if not impossible) to see – at a few metres across they’re right on the lower limit of the smallest near-Earth objects observed.  Their brightness will primarily be due to the reflectivity of the solar panels.  Since these are pointed towards the Sun, and therefore almost at Earth, it might work out now and again as Herschel and Planck move in their orbits.  I haven’t crunched the numbers to work out if this is possible (exercise for the reader?), but it should certainly be a challenge.

Imperial on Herschel and Planck

May 15, 2009

Imperial College’s coverage of the Herschel and planck launch can be found here, including videos of two of the IC team talking about the satellites.

I’m still having to pinch myself to be convinced that we’ve launched the satellites successfully!

Planck is on the Move!

February 22, 2009

Things have been quiet here of late as Planck goes through its final lab testing. But that’s all done now and Planck is on the move!

Planck being packed into its container

Planck being packed into its container

Planck needs to go from the labs at CSL where the testing has been completed to Kouru in French Gaiana for launch on an Ariane 5.

It’s not a simple trip!

Planck being loaded onto the truck

Planck being loaded onto the truck

First its onto a special truck and through the streets to the airport.

Loading onto the plane

Loading onto the plane

Then into a special Russian large load cargo plane.

Ready for takeoff!

Ready for takeoff!

Before it’s ready for take off.

This will be the last that most of the scientists and engineers who’ve built Planck will see of it. The next step is for it to be integrated into the launch faring with Herschel and for this to be installed on the launch vehicle. There will be a final round of tests and then… liftoff!

The launch is scheduled for 16th April. Watch this space for more news as this memorable day approaches!

Planck is cool – and getting cooler!

July 8, 2008

Planck is currently in Liege, cooling down to cryogenic temperatures for full testing of the whole instrument and satellite. The satellite has its own twitter feed at so you can see what it’s up to from minute to minute.


June 6, 2008

Welcome to the Planck Mission Blog.

Planck is the European Apace Agency’s microwave background mission.

This blog will give you some idea of what it’s like to work on a project like this, from day to day trivia to the excitement of launch and getting new scientific results that tell us how the universe works.

The blog is open to various members of the Planck team, and anyone can post a comment or ask us a question. At the moment it’s rather early days, and the blog has few posters and a rather basic style. That will change with time. Eventually we will have news of the latest science results.

So read, enjoy, and let us know what you think!

Hello world!

May 31, 2008

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!