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And finally: Planck's first light survey

Plancks first light survey
A map of the sky at optical wavelengths shows a prominent horizontal band which is the light shining from our own Milky Way. The superimposed strip shows the area of the sky mapped by Planck during the First Light Survey CREDIT: ESA, LFI & HFI Consortia. Background optical image: Axel Mellinger

Launched on the 14th of May this year, the Planck spacecraft released the results of it's "first light" survey during September. Since its launch along with the Herschel telescope, Planck has been undergoing testing, commissioning and calibration of its instruments, making its first observations on the 13th of August. Designed to detect the cosmic microwave background, the relic radiation left over from the Big Bang, Planck has several survey instruments on board. In order to maximise their chances of detecting the tiny fluctuations in the temperature of the CMB, the sensitive detectors must be cooled down almost to absolute zero, a temperature of minus 273 Kelvin Celcius. Starting on August 13th, the satellite began a first light survey to verify the stability and calibration of the instruments. The survey lasted two weeks during which Planck continuously surveyed the sky, scanning a strip 15 degrees wide. Following the completion of this test observation, routine operations began on August the 27th. Full-time operations will continue for the next 15 months, with the first all-sky map expected to be assembled after approximately six months.


Planck first light yields promising results, ESA press release, 17th September 2009

Posted by Megan on Monday 05th Oct 2009 (11:19 UTC) | Add a comment | Permalink

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