Planck First Light

One of the newest telescopes in space, the Planck spacecraft, recently completed its “first light” survey which began on August 13. Astronomers say the initial data, gathered from Planck’s vantage point at the L2 point in space, is excellent. Planck is studying the Cosmic Microwave Background, looking for variations in temperature that are about a million times smaller than one degree. This is comparable to measuring from Earth the body heat of a rabbit sitting on the Moon.

The initial survey yielded maps of a strip of the sky, one for each of Planck’s nine frequencies. Each map is a ring, about 15° wide, stretching across the full sky.

The the differences in color in the strips indicate the magnitude of the deviations of the temperature of the Cosmic Microwave Background from its average value, as measured by Planck at a frequency close to the peak of the CMB spectrum (red is hotter and blue is colder).

The large red strips trace radio emission from the Milky Way, whereas the small bright spots high above the galactic plane correspond to emission from the Cosmic Microwave Background itself.

In order to do its work, Planck’s detectors must be cooled to extremely low temperatures, some of them being very close to absolute zero (–273.15°C, or zero Kelvin, 0K).

Routine operations are now underway, and surveying will continue for at least 15 months without a break. In approximately 6 months, the first all-sky map will be assembled.

Within its projected operational life of 15 months, Planck will gather data for two complete sky maps. To fully exploit the high sensitivity of Planck, the data will require delicate adjustments and careful analysis. It promises to return a treasure trove that will keep both cosmologists and astrophysicists busy for decades to come.

Source: ESA

21 Replies to “Planck First Light”

  1. Yay! I’m really, really nearly as excited by this observatory as of Kepler.

    And I didn’t expect the first results after a mere 6 months!

    Btw, how does this image compare with WMAP? 😀

    No, more seriously, ESA’s press release suck:

    – How does it compare to earlier observatories? (One can look it up, but why don’t they take the opportunity to gloat?)

    – How does it compare with specs ? (Likely well, as they are excited and it “promises to return a treasure trove”. But _they don’t say_!)

    – “[D]egree”, is that Fahrenheit or Kelvin? (Likely Kelvin, as they mention the later. But _they don’t say_!)

    Oh, 0 K is spelled (specified really, IIRC) with a space between. First, IVAN3MAN! 😉

  2. Good news and bad news. According to this the instrument is up to spec, so it can test inflation models at 3 sigma:

    “”In terms of the instrumental performance, we are getting what we expected from ground testing,” explained Dr Tauber.”

    OTOH, one instrument not directly related to CMB (the HiFi) is currently down. And more seriously (to me) the results are indeed years in coming despite having the first data series so early.

  3. That is really good news, very exciting! Thanks a lot. Who ever will work with those datas first, the Nobel Prize is almost guaranteed!

  4. Torbjörn Larsson OM:

    “[D]egree”, is that Fahrenheit or Kelvin? (Likely Kelvin, as they mention the later. But _they don’t say_!)

    Oh, 0 K is spelled (specified really, IIRC) with a space between.

    You’re correct in the second instance, but incorrect in the first instance: according to Wikipedia on kelvin — usage conventions — the kelvin, unlike the degree Fahrenheit and degree Celsius, is not referred to as a “degree”, nor is it typeset with a degree symbol; that is, it is written K and not °K.

    Until the 13th General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) in 1967–1968, the unit kelvin was called a “degree”, the same as with the other temperature scales at the time. It was distinguished from the other scales with either the adjective suffix “Kelvin” (“degree Kelvin”) or with “absolute” (“degree absolute”) and its symbol was °K. The latter (degree absolute), which was the unit’s official name from 1948 until 1954, was rather ambiguous since it could also be interpreted as referring to the Rankine scale. Before the 13th CGPM, the plural form was “degrees absolute”. The 13th CGPM changed the name to simply “kelvin” (symbol K). The omission of “degree” indicates that it is not relative to an arbitrary reference point like the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales, but rather an absolute unit of measure which can be manipulated algebraically (e.g., multiplied by two to indicate twice the amount of “mean energy” available among elementary degrees of freedom of the system).

  5. Sweet baby Jesus! Very unexpected to see this by now – it seemed like it was launched just the other day! Can;t wait to see what they pull out of this data.

    PS – to all the whiny sucky lahlahs that dispute virtually every facet of modern astronomy and cosmology on this forum, it’s just about past time for you to front up with your prediction on what Plank will find using your EU garbage or whatever other alternate theory you intuitively feel should be correct.

  6. i apologize for making that statement. i guess i just don’t understand why this issue has to keep going on and on… how long has it been since the guy last posted?

  7. @Pvt.Pantzov: I’m just a regular poster here, but I wanted to say I don’t think you need to apologize. Frankly I’m getting just as annoyed at the folks who try to “troll the trollers” as much as the original trollers themselves. In a comments thread where the EU proponents don’t participate in, I don’t think it’s even worth it to mention EU or its proponents at all. It’s one thing to post a rebuttal to a real post. It’s quite another to post a rebuttal to an imaginary post. Just my humble opinion.

  8. Dave Finton: “Frankly I’m getting just as annoyed at the folks who try to “troll the trollers” as much as the original trollers themselves.”

    Me too.

  9. Yes, Planck should be able to test for B-modes, which are signatures of inflation. We should also get some resolution on the kertosis distributions interpreted a couple of years ago as a hole in the sky.


  10. Were the EU predictions wrong?

    Some effort ought to be made to distinguish between EU theory and cutting-edge plasma physics. Plasma physicist Anthony Peratt, for example, of Los Alamos Labs, strongly subscribes to the same fundamentals– (first described by H. Alfven) that EU proponents do.

    Sometimes I think people forget that. Or perhaps they just don’t realize it.

  11. Not sure who those other folks are, though I am familiar with both camps. Is there an argument going on I don’t know about? Just stating the facts, wasn’t intending to dig up any bad blood. It pays to know the differences between the two groups, that’s all I’m saying.

  12. Sorry…need to ask one more question: what exactly is a troll?

    I’ve been getting newsfeeds on this website for a long time now but this is the first time I ever read the bottom of the page and saw the comments-section.

  13. @PlasmaPhysics:

    You’d be best served not to ask. If you have a theory or an arguement, present it and let the chips fall where they may….

  14. I don’t have a theory. I do like new science, though. The newer the better. Onward and upward!

  15. @PlasmaPhysics: As far as I know, none of those who claim to be “EU theorists*” have made anything which could be called a scientific prediction concerning the CMB.

    Were the EU predictions wrong?

    Peratt (and a grad student or two) and Lerner wrote several papers, between them, on the CMB (Alfvén did not, AFAIK); the COBE results are already good enough to show the models in these papers do not describe the real universe, and by the time the WMAP team published its Year One papers, those models had been ruled out, six different ways to Sunday.

    * Scott, Talbott, and Thornhill (there are no others, are there?)

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