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Planck unveils first all-sky map of Universe
DR EMILY BALDWIN
ASTRONOMY NOW
Posted: 5 July 2010


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The much anticipated first all-sky microwave map of the Universe from ESA's Planck mission has today been unveiled.

“This is the moment that Planck was conceived for,” says ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, David Southwood. “We’re not giving the answer. We are opening the door to an Eldorado 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. Now the scientific harvest must begin.”

Planck's view of the microwave sky, covering frequencies from 30 GHz to 857 GHz. Notable features have been highlighted. Click for larger image. Image: ESA/LFI & HFI Consortia.

The main disc of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, streaks through the centre of the image, with streamers of cold dust arching high above and below the Galaxy, knitted together to create a 'galactic web' bursting with new stars. At the top and bottom of the image the mottled backdrop of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation shines through. The oldest light in the Universe, this speckled pattern is the ghostly remains of the big bang that blasted the Universe into existence 13.7 billion years ago.

The different colours in the CMB represent minute differences in temperature and density of matter that mark the spots from which today's structure – i.e. galaxies – evolved. One of the most anticipated results from Planck will be whether the data will expose the signature of a period of cosmic time called inflation, whereby the Universe expanded rapidly during the very first moments of existence. Over the next several hundred million years the higher density regions condensed into stars and galaxies. The CMB is thus a cosmic blueprint of the Universe, from which Planck will decode how these early 'lumps and bumps' took on today's shape.

The majority of the CMB radiation is drowned out in this image by the Milky Way's emission, but the data will be reduced to reveal the CMB in its entirety, in the most precise picture of the CMB ever obtained. By the time the Planck mission concludes in 2012 it will have completed four all-sky scans. “This image is just a glimpse of what Planck will ultimately see,” says Jan Tauber, ESA’s Planck Project Scientist.

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From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.
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Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.
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3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!
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