Exhibit blog

Make your own Planck Satellite!

Just took delivery of one of the things we’ll be giving away next week: papercraft kits that allow you to build your own Planck Satellite! I’ve given some to our PhD students as an intelli....

Further reading

European Space Agency

The Planck satellite, launched in May 2009, has surveyed the entire sky to search for the origin of the universe. One of the most technologically advanced satellites ever launched, its first report of its findings has become available.

See the scientists explain the science behind their exhibit in the video above, produced by students from Imperial College: Sam Tracey, Pia Melichar

How it works

The satellite captures the variations in the brightness of the cosmic microwave background.  For the first 100,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe was filled with hot, dense plasma that was opaque to light.  As the universe expanded, the plasma cooled and thinned out, becoming transparent.  The last-scattered light appears as the cosmic microwave background.

These fluctuations in the background represent the expansion of the early universe, when electrons and protons combined to form hydrogen atoms, and through gravitational attraction formed the stars, galaxies and planets as well as all life as we know it.  Planck is measuring these fluctuations over the entire sky at the highest precision ever achieved.

These readings will not only tell us how the first stars and galaxies were formed, but will also provide information even further back in cosmic history, to understand the physics of the Big Bang and the answer to the origins of the universe itself.

Lead Image: The microwave sky as seen by Planck