Planck in the news

If things go roughly to plan, the European Space Agency's Planck spacecraft should launch next year to observe the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation that comes from a time about 300,000 years or so after the big bang. Planck will take lots of very detailed measurements of the properties of the CMB to find out as much as possible about the universe at that time. It follows in the footsteps of the excellent COBE and WMAP missions.

Back in November/December, the two halves of the spacecraft - the low and high frequency instruments - were both brought together at a facility in Cannes (France). The Low Frequency Instrument (LFI) consists of radio receivers that work at 30, 44 and 70 GHz and these are arranged in a ring with a central hole. The High Frequency Instrument (HFI) consists of lots of bolometric detectors (basically really good thermometers) that detect microwaves at a range of frequencies between 100 and 857 GHz. Combining the results from both instruments is necessary to work out what is being observed (our galaxy gets in the way and its contribution has to be accounted for). The HFI is pretty compact and it actually slots really neatly into the doughnut hole in the middle of the LFI. So, the process of putting the bits together takes a lot of care and time and has nearly finished. Once that is done, the whole lot will be cooled down to very low temperatures for testing to check that everything still works as expected.

I'll point out my bias here as my job is involved with the Planck project.

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 05th Feb 2007 (11:04 GMT) | Permalink
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