Planck Satellite to Map the Universe

The Planck mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) is the first European space observatory dedicated to the study of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR), the residual energy and fossil traces of the massive explosion that gave birth to the Universe: the Big Bang.

Every six months, the satellite scans the universe in search of new discoveries that document how it all began. As paleontologists attempt to reconstruct the size, weight and shape of the limbs of an extinct animal from its footprints, cosmologists try to understand the characteristics of the Big Bang.

The first data collected from the Planck Satellite, led to the discovery of new clusters of galaxies and other structures which helped shed new light on our Universe. These promising results did not fall entirely within the principal objective of the Planck ( which is to reach, by 2013, a more accurate mapping of the cosmos), but, they also led to the discovery of the oldest source of light emitted about 380 000 years after the Big Bang, which took place about 13.7 billion years ago.

The Planck Satellite is also sensitive to another source of emission detected in different wavelengths: the cosmic infrared background. This is the sum of all the light emitted by all galaxies since their formation. These rays are full of information pertaining the process of the formation of stars, data that was not previously available, until now.

The images provided by Plank are particularly sharp and precise capable of identifying something like 15,000 galactic and extragalactic sources, and astronomical objects, ranging from stars shrouded in dust, to clusters of galaxies. With its wavelength measurements ranging from radio to infrared, Planck is able to go back in time.

The Planck’s observation results are collected in articles published in the journal of Astronomy & Astrophysics. Planck was launched in May 2009 along with another satellite, called Herschel. The satellite placed itself far from Earth and from there began to scan and report the information obtained. At the European Space Agency’s (ESA) project about 100 institutions were present, including the prestigious National Institute of Astrophysics.

The satellite was scheduled to end its mission in 2012, but, because of the great amount of information obtained so far, its mission had to be extended. The Planck’s discoveries have certainly opened the doors to a scientific hunt for a deeper understanding of how the universe was created and how it works, providing valuable data that will unveil some of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Universe and our existence.

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