Planck telescope reveals image of the entire Universe

[caption id="attachment_639" align="aligncenter" width="940" caption="The first full-sky image from Europe's Planck telescope which was sent into space last year to survey the oldest light in the cosmos Photo: ESA"][/caption]

Giant clouds of interstellar gas and dust light up this panoramic view of the sky recorded by the European space agency's Planck telescope

The space telescope was launched in May last year on a mission to survey the "cosmic microwave background" – ancient light left over from the big bang.The bright streak across the middle of the picture is our own galaxy, the Milky Way, viewed edge-on. The intense light comes not from stars but from the radiation released by the dust and gas clouds that stretch between them.The blue and white wisps that reach above and below our own galaxy are streamers of cold dust that trace out the "galactic web" where new stars are born.The speckles at the top and bottom of the image are caused by microwave background radiation, the remnants of the first light that appeared 380,000 years after the big bang flung the universe into being 13.7bn years ago.The Planck telescope observes the sky in nine wavelengths from the microwave to the vary-far-infrared region of the spectrum. This image is a composite of pictures taken at several different wavelengths. Dominating the picture are large parts of our Milky Way Galaxy. The bright horizontal line running across the middle of the image is the galaxy's main disc and where the Sun and Earth are.

The satellite, costing 600m euros, was launched last year by the European Space Agency. It was sent nearly a million miles into space to record the origins of the universe. The Planck observatory's job was to look at the age, contents and evolution of the cosmos by studying the heat left behind by the Big Bang.In September it began to reveal its first images showing strips of ancient light across the sky. Now it has revealed a full picture of the sky.The image shows what is visible beyond the Earth to instruments that are sensitive to light at very long wavelengths.

From the closest portions of the Milky Way to the furthest reaches of space and time, the new all-sky Planck image is an extraordinary treasure chest of new data for astronomers.The pictures beamed back by Planck will give astronomers insights into the structure of the universe and hopefully shed light on dark energy, which is believed to drive the expansion of the universe, and dark matter, the invisible substance that seems to cling to galaxies. Scientists will spend years analysing the image to better understand how the Universe came to look the way it does.


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