The Planck Telescope, developed as the flagship of the European Space Agency, has returned its first image of the universe. Launched in May 2009, the observational satellite has been collecting data for the better part of a year and the results from the latest capture could help astronomers discover more about the origins of the Universe. Check out the full story, with pictures and video below!
Titled as the “Image of the Universe,” the photo captures microwave radiation from every point in the known universe. Microwave radiation is especially interesting for astronomers because it is associated specifically with the birth and death of stars, and the intergalactic dust that forms stars.
The ESA’s Planck Telescope cost 600 Million Euros, and scientists are relieved that the orbiter’s instruments have proven so precise. David Southwood, director of science and robotic exploration at the ESA says the success of the mission will pay huge dividends for the scientific community.
“We are opening the door to an El Dorado where scientists can seek the nuggets that will lead to deeper understanding of how our universe came to be and how it works now. The image itself and its remarkable quality is a tribute to the engineers who built and have operated Planck.”
The ESA’s image still needs a lot of work. Because it was taken from within the Milky Way, fore-ground microwave radiation from our own galaxy dominates the image. With work, the ESA hopes to produce an image that filters out our galaxy entirely, and gives us a clear picture of the Universe in all directions.
“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.”
Still, David Clements of Imperial College London says we can learn a lot from what we already have.
“Just looking at the pictures you can tell we’re seeing new things about the structure of our galaxy,” he said in a press release. “Once we’ve done that, and stripped away these foregrounds, then it’s on to the Cosmic Microwave Background and the glow of the Big Bang itself!”
Exciting stuff! You can check out the full Planck Telescope image here. What do you think of the ESA’s latest effort? Was it worth the 600 Million Euro price tag? Let me know in the comment section! For more on how the orbiter works, check out the pictures and video below!