September 17, 2009

Planck data good, begins full sky survey

The European Space Agency says it has completed a two-week first light assessment of its Planck space observatory and found data quality to be excellent.

Plank, a microwave observatory, is designed to study the early universe and will make two full sky surveys, the first of which is expected to be completed in six months, the ESA said. The spacecraft has a mission life expectancy of 15 months, with the data it provides expected to keep both cosmologists and astrophysicists busy for decades.

Planck is the first European mission designed to study the Cosmic Microwave Background -- the relic radiation from the Big Bang, ESA officials said.

The spacecraft is named in honor of German physicist Max Planck, who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1918.