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Planck telescope finishes four-year mission

Europe's Plank telescope switched off Wednesday after a 4 1/2-year mission.
By Veronica Linares Contact the Author   |   Oct. 23, 2013 at 4:23 PM
(UPI) -- The European Space Agency's issued its final command to the Planck space telescope, which was turned off Wednesday after a 4 1/2-year mission that shed light on the true age of the universe.

The satellite will remain parked in a safe orbit around the Sun where it will stay for hundreds of years.

“It is with much sadness that we have carried out the final operations on the Planck spacecraft, but it is also a time to celebrate an extraordinarily successful mission,” said Steve Foley, the Planck Spacecraft Operations Manager at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC).

Launched in May 2009, Plank's task was to look at radiation remnants from the Big Bang that began the universe, known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). During its mission it found that the universe was 80 million years older than previously believed.

The spacecraft was named after the 20th-century German physicist Max Planck, who originated quantum theory, and it was equipped with a massive telescope that allowed it to measure the temperature of CMB emissions.

In March, ESA revealed a 50 million-pixel snapshot of radiation left over from the Big Bang captured by the spacecraft. The image showed the universe as it was at just 380,000 years old.

“Planck’s picture of the CMB is the most accurate ‘baby photo’ of the Universe yet, but the wealth of data still being scrutinised by our cosmologists will provide us with even more details.”

Although mission controllers in Darmstadt, Germany, sent the final command to the satellite on Wednesday afternoon, scientists will continue to analyze its data for years to come.

"We are only part way through the analysis of the data and have already learned a huge amount about the universe from the Milky Way galaxy, to the observable edge, and beyond to the first tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang," said U.S. Planck Project Scientist Charles Lawrence of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

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