Planck delivers first all-sky image

Less than a year after routine operations began for the ESA Planck satellite, the international consortium now released the first all-sky image of the microwave sky, using data spanning the full frequency range of Planck from 30 to 857 GHz. It not only provides new insight into the way stars and galaxies form but also tells us how the Universe itself came to life after the Big Bang. The Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) in Garching has developed important software components for Planck and takes part in the analysis and scientific interpretation of the mission data.

Planck maps the sky in nine frequencies using two state-of-the-art instruments, designed to produce high-sensitivity, multi-frequency measurements of the diffuse sky radiation. The relic radiation coming from the very early Universe is, to a large extent, masked by intervening astronomical sources, in particular by our own Galaxy's diffuse emission. Thanks to Planck's nine frequency channels, and to sophisticated image analysis techniques, it is possible to separate these two contributions into distinct scientific products that are of immense value for cosmologists and astrophysicists alike.

While the Milky Way shows us what the local Universe looks like now, the cosmic microwave background radiation show us what the Universe looked like close to its time of creation, before there were stars or galaxies. This pattern is the cosmic blueprint from which today’s clusters and superclusters of galaxies were built. The different colours represent minute differences in the temperature and density of matter across the sky. Somehow these small irregularities evolved into denser regions that became the galaxies of today.

Planck continues to map the Universe. By the end of its mission in 2012, it will have completed four all-sky scans. The first full data release of the cosmic microwave background radiation is planned for 2012. Before then, the catalogue containing individual objects in our Galaxy and whole distant galaxies will be released in January 2011.

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