The Planck telescope was launched into space last year and was sent into space to survey the cosmos and particularly the "oldest light" in the heavens.
The stunning picture you see above is of the Universe.
It is an astonishing picture, taken from Europe’s Planck telescope. This is the first full-sky image “map” and has took the 600m European observatory over six months to assemble.
The Planck telescope was launched into space last year and was sent into space to survey the cosmos and particularly the “oldest light” in the heavens.
This amazing picture displays what is visible beyond our Earth to instruments that are very sensitive to light, especially at very long wavelengths.
The researchers have hailed this “map” as a major success and will go a long way to understanding how the Universe came to be.
In the foreground of this spectacular picture is large segments of our Milky Way Galaxy. You will also notice a very bright horizontal line which runs through the full length of the picture. This is the galaxy’s main disc and is the plane where the Earth and the Sun reside.
This part is where the majority of most of the stars in our Milky Way form. As the picture only records long wavelength light (these are microwaves and the very far infrared wavelengths), what we can actually observe are not stars but the dust and gas that goes into making stars.
One part which to note is the huge streamers. These are of cold dust and can reach thousands of light years in length above and below the galactic plane.
Scientists state that such a picture is important in educating them in what is taking place in the neighbourhood of the Sun. It informs the researchers about the way galaxies form and by doing this they are able to compare to other galaxy formations.
However, as stunning as the Milky Way is, its emissions must be removed. This is if scientists are to get an even clearer view of its mottled backdrop. Here in the picture it is coloured magenta and yellow. To us this is the cosmic microwave background (CMB) and is key to Planck’s success in being able to map the Universe in such a way.
This is the famous cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, and a key target of the Planck mission.
The CMB is also know as the “first light”. This is the light that was allowed to move out across space. This after the Big-Bang Universe had cooled in which to allow the formation of hydrogen atoms. Scientists believe that before this time the cosmos would have been too hot and that matter and radiation would have “coupled”, therefore making the Universe opaque.
Because of super-cold detectors on-board Planck, this allows scientists to detect temperature variations in this ancient heat energy. This then allows the researchers an insight into the early structure of the Universe and the blueprint for what follows afterwards.
Planck has a number of quests in which it was designed to serve. One is to find hard evidence of “inflation” which is the faster-than-light expansion that many cosmologists believe the Universe experienced in its first few seconds.
Planck was first launched in May 2009 and is the flagship mission for the European Space Agency. It is now more than a million kilometers from the Earth in an observing position.