Planck satellite all set to measure the Big Bang

May 13th, 2009 - 12:10 pm ICT by ANI  

Berlin, May 13 (ANI): Together with ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) Space Telescope Herschel, Planck is all set to go into orbit on May 14, to begin its studies of the cosmic microwave radiation and of the clues it gives about the Big Bang, the earliest phases of the cosmic history, and the structure and composition of the Universe. According to the standard model of cosmology, our Universe began 13.7 billions years ago in a Big Bang, the origin of Space and Time.

The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) is the relic heat from this Big Bang, released 380,000 years after beginning and still traveling freely through space today.

At that early time, weak fluctuations of matter density were present, which are seen as variations of temperature in the CMB.

By observing these fluctuations, cosmologists can infer how the large-scale structure of today’s Universe - galaxies, galaxy clusters and filaments - were formed.

The Planck satellite will be placed at the second Lagrangian point of the Sun-Earth-Moon system (L2), located about 1.5 million kilometers away from the Earth - four times the distance to the Moon.

It will spin around its own axis, which will always point towards the Sun, with each rotation recording another strip of the sky and mapping its temperature to an accuracy of about one million of a degree.

The data are sent to Earth and turned into temperature maps of the sky in data processing centers in France and Italy.

What the maps look like depends on certain characteristics of the Universe, for example on the curvature of space.

For hypothetic Universes with specified properties, computer simulations using the MPA software generate virtual maps, which will be compared with maps of the real sky.

“From the comparison, we can draw conclusions about the structure of our own Universe, for example how much ordinary matter and dark energy exist in it,” explained Torsten Ensslin, head of the Planck group at MPA (The Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics).

From their computer simulations, MPA cosmologists have shown how the CMB has influenced the gravitational field of dark matter.

The unseen structures of dark matter can therefore be deduced from temperature variations in the CMB.

The mission is expected to detect thousands of distant objects in a frequency range barely studied so far, and so to offer new insights into the physics of galaxies, Active Galactic Nuclei and quasars in the submillimeter domain.

These will show Planck scientists energetic processes in the immediate vicinity of massive black holes.

Planck may also help us to understand the birth of the first stars in the Universe and the structure of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. (ANI)

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