Buttons for donate, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Donate to Support Science Literacy Facebook Twitter YouTube ASP logo

The Other Science from Planck

Mercury Winter 2012 Table of Contents


by Nabila Aghanim, Clive Dickinson, Guilaine Lagache, Ludovic Montier, and Bruce Partridge, on behalf of the Planck Collaboration

heart of active galaxy

In the heart of an active galaxy, matter falling into a supermassive black hole somehow creates jets of particles traveling near the speed of light. In active galaxies classified as blazars, one of these jets beams right toward Earth. Image courtesy NASA / GSFC Conceptual Image Lab.

Planck is a satellite expressly designed to measure small temperature fluctuations in the heat left over from the Big Bang, also known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). It's a European Space Agency mission, with support from NASA.

Planck was launched on May 14, 2009, and currently hovers one million miles from the Earth. It observes the sky in nine frequency bands covering 30 to 857 GHz, that is at wavelengths ranging from
1 cm down to ~0.4 mm. Once a minute it scans a circular pattern in the sky, with the orientation of that circle gradually shifting so that it covers the entire sky in about six months.

Planck's studies of the CMB will not be released for another year. The satellite has, however, already produced a wide range of scientific results — some from Planck's survey of our own Milky Way Galaxy, and others from the recently released catalog of compact sources detected by Planck. Planck's all-sky surveys at frequencies of 100 to 857 GHz are unique. Opening up that range of frequency space has allowed Planck to make a number of important discoveries about galaxies, the sites of star formation, and tiny dust particles spinning at 100 billion rpm. These constitute Planck's other science. Here are a few of the highlights.


If you enjoyed this excerpt from a feature article and would like to receive our quarterly Mercury magazine, we invite you to join the ASP and receive 4 issues a year.