All-Sky Stunner from Planck

by Nancy Atkinson on July 5, 2010

A multi-color all-sky image of the microwave sky. Credit: ESA, HFI and LFI consortia

After a year of observations, the Planck observatory team released an all-sky microwave image, and what a gorgeous image it is! The Planck satellite looks at the entire sky in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum, (30 to 857 GHz) with the main goal of tracking down the echoes of the Big Bang, the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB.) This new image reveals the cosmic signal is literally hidden behind a fog of foreground emission, arising mostly from the interstellar medium (ISM), the diffuse mixture of gas and dust filling our Galaxy.

At the top and bottom of the image in the red and yellow marbled region is where the CMB is visible.

“By contrast, a good part of the sky is dominated by the Milky Way contribution, shining strongly along the Galactic Plane but also extending well above and below it, albeit at a very much lower intensity,” said Jan Tauber, Planck Project Scientist.

To produce this image, the Planck team combined data from the full frequency range of Planck. The main disc of our Galaxy runs across the center of the image, with streamers of cold dust reaching above and below the Milky Way. This galactic web is where new stars are being formed, and Planck has found many locations where individual stars are edging toward birth or just beginning their cycle of development.

To get your bearings of where everything is locatated, here is an annotated version.

Annotated version of the Planck all-sky image. Credit: ESA, HFI and LFI consortia.

“Planck has ‘painted’ us its first spectacular picture of the Universe,” said Dr. David Parker, Director of Space Science and Exploration for the UKSpace Agency. “This single image captures both our own cosmic backyard — the Milky Way galaxy that we live in — but also the subtle imprint of the Big Bang from which the whole Universe emerged. We’re proud to be supporting this great new discovery machine and look forward to our scientists unraveling the deeper meaning behind the beauty of this first image.”

And this is just the beginning of beautiful things from Planck!

Here’s another annotated version:

Planck all-sky annotated image. Credit: ESA, HFI and LFI consortia.

(Thanks to IVAN3MAN for suggesting to add this image.)

For more info see this ESA webpage, and the Planck website.


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: