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  • richardmitnick 5:40 pm on October 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA: “Shapley Supercluster” 

    ESA Planck
    Planck

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    While scanning the sky for the oldest cosmic light, ESA’s Planck satellite has captured snapshots of some of the largest objects populating the Universe today: galaxy clusters and superclusters.

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    ESA & Planck Collaboration / Rosat/ Digitised Sky Survey
    Released 21/10/2013 11:44 am

    Several hundred galaxies and the huge amounts of gas that permeate them are depicted in this view of the core of the Shapley Supercluster, the largest cosmic structure in the local Universe.

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    Shapley Superculster (Wikipedia)

    The supercluster was discovered in the 1930s by American astronomer Harlow Shapley, as a remarkable concentration of galaxies in the Centaurus constellation.

    Boasting more than 8000 galaxies and with a total mass more than ten million billion times the mass of the Sun, it is the most massive structure within a distance of about a billion light-years from our Milky Way Galaxy.

    The hot gas pervading galaxy clusters shines brightly in X-rays, but it is also visible at microwave wavelengths, which Planck sees as a distinctive signature in the Cosmic Microwave Background – the afterglow of the Big Bang.

    Cosmic Background RadiationXMM Newton
    Cosmic Background Radiation

    Looking for this signature – called the Sunyaev–Zel’dovich effect – Planck has already spotted more than 1000 galaxy clusters, including several superclusters and pairs of interacting clusters.

    This composite image of the core of the Shapley Supercluster combines the gas detected with Planck at large scales between the members of the supercluster (shown in blue) with that detected in X-rays within the galaxy clusters of Shapley using the Rosat satellite (pink), as well as a view of its rich population of galaxies as observed at visible wavelengths in the Digitised Sky Survey.

    The largest pink blobs of X-rays identify the two galaxy clusters Abell 3558 on the right and Abell 3562 on the left, as well as a couple of smaller groups between them.

    The image measures 3.2 x 1.8 square degrees and shows the central portion of the Shapley Supercluster. It was produced by reconstructing the Sunyaev–Zel’dovich effect from the Planck frequency maps, and was first published in a Planck Collaboration paper in March 2013.

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 7:37 am on October 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA: “Celebrating the legacy of ESA’s Planck mission” 

    ESA Planck
    Planck

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    18 October 2013

    From the tiniest fraction of a second after the Big Bang to the evolution of stars and galaxies over 13.8 billion years, ESA’s Planck space telescope has provided new insight into the history of our Universe. Although science observations are now complete, the legacy of the Planck mission lives on.


    Planck’s view of the Universe

    Planck was launched in 2009 and spent 4.5 years scanning the sky to study the evolution of cosmic matter over time. Tomorrow, the Low Frequency Instrument will be switched off, having completed its science operations on 3 October.

    Planck’s High Frequency Instrument already ended its observations in January 2012, after a total of five all-sky surveys had been completed with both instruments.

    With some operational procedures to still take place, the spacecraft will finally be switched off next week.
    The most precise view of our Universe

    Planck and the Cosmic microwave background

    Earlier this year, cosmologists working on the Planck data delivered the most precise image of the cosmic microwave background – CMB, the relic radiation from the Big Bang that was imprinted on the sky when the Universe was only 380 000 years old.

    Cosmic Background RadiationXMM Newton
    CMB

    The CMB is the most accurate snapshot of the matter distribution in the early Universe. It shows tiny temperature fluctuations that correspond to regions of slightly different densities at very early times, representing the seeds of all future structure, the stars and galaxies of today.

    “Planck has delivered the most precise all-sky image of the CMB that is enabling us to test a huge variety of models of the origin and evolution of the cosmos,” says Jan Tauber, ESA’s Planck project scientist.

    “But long and meticulous work was required before we could start exploiting this wealth of cosmological information, since the CMB is hidden behind foreground glare including emissions from material within our own Galaxy, as well as from other galaxies and galaxy clusters.”

    For example, Planck has made the most extensive catalogue of the largest galaxy clusters, the most massive building blocks in our Universe. Planck has also identified the densest and coldest clumps of matter in our Galaxy, cool reservoirs of material from which new stars may be born in the future.

    But these are only two examples of the wide range of topics that the Planck data archive has provided new information.

    New cosmic recipe

    Looking beyond the Milky Way and across cosmic history, Planck has redefined the relative proportions of the Universe’s constituent ingredients. Normal matter that makes up stars and galaxies contributes just 4.9% of the mass/energy density of the Universe.

    Dark matter, to date detected only indirectly by its gravitational influence on galaxies and galaxy clusters, is found to make up 26.8%, more than previous estimates. Conversely, dark energy, a mysterious force thought to be responsible for accelerating the expansion of the Universe, accounts for 68.3%, less than previously thought.

    The data also provided a new value for the age of the Universe: 13.8 billion years.
    For further information, please contact:

    Markus Bauer
    ESA Science and Robotic Exploration Communication Officer
    Tel: +31 71 565 6799
    Mob: +31 61 594 3 954
    Email: markus.bauer@esa.int

    Jan Tauber
    ESA Planck Project Scientist
    Tel: +31 71 565 5342
    Email: Jan.Tauber@esa.int

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 2:55 pm on July 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    From Symmetry: “Secrets of the early universe” 

    Planck, the space telescope that this year revealed unprecedentedly detailed information about the early universe, is just getting started.

    ESA Planck
    Planck

    “If you had eyes that could see all photons, not just the ones in the visible part of the spectrum, you would be able to see that between the bright stars and galaxies, a faint background light made of microwaves pervades the universe, streaming toward you from all directions at all times.

    The Planck telescope has just such a pair of eyes.

    Earlier this year, Planck scientists used this light to take a detailed “baby picture” of the universe, revealing that the universe is older and contains more matter than previously thought. And as if that leap in understanding isn’t enough, Planck has even more data up its sleeve.

    A flash of light

    The faint glow that Planck sees between the stars and the galaxies formed long ago when the universe was about 370,000 years old. Back then, before there were stars or planets, a fog of hydrogen plasma and radiation filled the universe. As the then very hot, very dense universe expanded, things cooled enough for protons and electrons to combine to form atoms. This made the universe transparent for the first time, allowing light to travel relatively unhindered over great distances.

    It also unleashed a flash of radiation imprinted with the topography of the universe at that very moment: the cosmic microwave background.

    By looking at the distribution of irregularities in this shadow-version of the early universe, researchers seek to deduce the conditions of the universe at that time and understand the laws governing its dynamics.

    A rapid expansion

    Earlier this year, scientists on the Planck space mission released the most detailed map ever of the cosmic microwave background. In its tiny temperature fluctuations—which correspond to density fluctuations in the early universe—researchers discovered that the universe contains slightly more matter and less dark energy than previously thought. It also revealed that the universe is about 100 million years older and its rate of expansion is slower than previously determined.

    uni

    The map also shows how matter is distributed in the universe, and gives credence to theories that random processes were at work during the epoch in which the universe expanded rapidly. This favors simpler theories of that inflation over more complex ones.

    This new information is helping researchers test detailed models of how the universe formed and evolved—models that have implications for what will happen in the future as well.”

    See the full article here.

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.


     
  • richardmitnick 1:14 pm on March 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA: “Planck and the cosmic microwave background” 

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    ESA Planck
    Planck

    Undated
    No Writer Credit

    THIS ARTICLE BY ESA IS GREAT BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON PLANCK AND ITS SEARCH FOR COSMIC BACKGROUND RADIATION. I AM ONLY GIVING HIGHLIGHTS. PLEASE SEE THE FULL ARTICLE.

    What is Planck and what is it studying?
    Planck is a European Space Agency space-based observatory observing the Universe at wavelengths between 0.3 mm and 11.1 mm (corresponding to frequencies between 27 GHz and 1 THz), broadly covering the far-infrared, microwave, and high frequency radio domains. The mission’s main goal is to study the cosmic microwave background – the relic radiation left over from the Big Bang – across the whole sky at greater sensitivity and resolution than ever before.

    What is the cosmic microwave background?
    The cosmic microwave background (or CMB) fills the entire Universe and is leftover radiation from the Big Bang.

    CMB

    Why is it so important to study the cosmic microwave background?
    The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is the furthest back in time we can explore using light. It formed about 380,000 years after the Big Bang and imprinted on it are traces of the seeds from which the stars and galaxies we can see today eventually formed. Hidden in the pattern of the radiation is a complex story that helps scientists to understand the history of the Universe both before and after the CMB was released.

    When was the cosmic microwave background first detected?
    The existence of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) was postulated on theoretical grounds in the late 1940s by George Gamow, Ralph Alpher, and Robert Herman, who were studying the consequences of the nucleosynthesis of light elements, such as hydrogen, helium and lithium, at very early times in the Universe. They realised that, in order to synthesise the nuclei of these elements, the early Universe needed to be extremely hot and that the leftover radiation from this ‘hot Big Bang’ would permeate the Universe and be detectable even today as the CMB.

    How many space missions have studied the cosmic microwave background?

    The first space mission specifically designed to study the cosmic microwave background (CMB) was the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), launched by NASA in 1989. Among its key discoveries were that averaged across the whole sky, the CMB shows a spectrum that conforms extremely precisely to a so-called ‘black body’ (i.e. pure thermal radiation) at a temperature of 2.73 Kelvin, but that it also shows very small temperature fluctuations on the order of 1 part in 100,000 across the sky. These findings were rewarded with the award of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics to John Mather and George Smoot.

    NASA’s second generation space mission, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) was launched in 2001 to study these very small fluctuations in much more detail. The fluctuations were imprinted on the CMB at the moment where the photons and matter decoupled 380,000 years after the Big Bang, and reflect slightly higher and lower densities in the primordial Universe. These fluctuations were originated at an earlier epoch – immediately after the Big Bang – and would later grow, under the effect of gravity, giving rise to the large-scale structure (i.e. clusters and superclusters of galaxies) that we see around us today.

    Finally, ESA’s Planck was launched in 2009 to study the CMB in even greater detail than ever before. It covers a wider frequency range in more bands and at higher sensitivity than WMAP, making it possible to make a much more accurate separation of all of the components of the submillimetre and microwave wavelength sky, including many foreground sources such as the emission from our own Milky Way Galaxy.

    What does the cosmic microwave background look like?
    The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is detected in all directions of the sky and appears to microwave telescopes as an almost uniform background. Planck’s predecessors (NASA’s COBE and WMAP missions) measured the temperature of the CMB to be 2.726 Kelvin (approximately -270 degrees Celsius) almost everywhere on the sky. The ‘almost’ is the most important factor here, because tiny fluctuations in the temperature, by just a fraction of a degree, represent differences in densities of structure, on both small and large scales, that were present right after the Universe formed.

    What is ‘the standard model of cosmology’ and how does it relate to the CMB?
    The standard model of cosmology rests on the assumption that, on very large scales, the Universe is homogeneous and isotropic, meaning that its properties are very similar at every point and that there are no preferential directions in space. In this model, the Universe was born nearly 14 billion years ago: at this time, its density and temperature were extremely high – a state referred to as ‘hot Big Bang’. The Universe has been expanding ever since, as demonstrated by observations performed since the late 1920s. The rich variety of structure that we can observe on relatively small scales is the result of minuscule, random fluctuations that were embedded during cosmic inflation – an early period of accelerated expansion that took place immediately after the hot Big Bang – and that would later grow under the effect of gravity into galaxies and galaxy clusters.

    The standard model of cosmology was derived from a number of different astronomical observations based on entirely different physical processes. To reconcile the data with theory, however, cosmologists have added two additional components that lack experimental confirmation: dark matter, an invisible matter component whose web-like distribution on large scales constitutes the scaffold where galaxies and other cosmic structure formed; and dark energy, a mysterious component that permeates the Universe and is driving its currently accelerated expansion. The standard model of cosmology can be described by a relatively small number of parameters, including: the density of ordinary matter, dark matter and dark energy, the speed of cosmic expansion at the present epoch (also known as the Hubble constant), the geometry of the Universe, and the relative amount of the primordial fluctuations embedded during inflation on different scales and their amplitude.

    See the full article here.

    Added in:

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 12:42 pm on March 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA: “Planck reveals an almost perfect Universe” 

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    Planck

    21 March 2013

    “Acquired by ESA’s Planck space telescope, the most detailed map ever created of the cosmic microwave background – the relic radiation from the Big Bang – was released today revealing the existence of features that challenge the foundations of our current understanding of the Universe.

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    Cosmic microwave background seen by Planck

    The image is based on the initial 15.5 months of data from Planck and is the mission’s first all-sky picture of the oldest light in our Universe, imprinted on the sky when it was just 380 000 years old.

    At that time, the young Universe was filled with a hot dense soup of interacting protons, electrons and photons at about 2700ºC. When the protons and electrons joined to form hydrogen atoms, the light was set free. As the Universe has expanded, this light today has been stretched out to microwave wavelengths, equivalent to a temperature of just 2.7 degrees above absolute zero.

    This ‘cosmic microwave background’ – CMB – shows tiny temperature fluctuations that correspond to regions of slightly different densities at very early times, representing the seeds of all future structure: the stars and galaxies of today.

    According to the standard model of cosmology, the fluctuations arose immediately after the Big Bang and were stretched to cosmologically large scales during a brief period of accelerated expansion known as inflation.

    Planck was designed to map these fluctuations across the whole sky with greater resolution and sensitivity than ever before. By analysing the nature and distribution of the seeds in Planck’s CMB image, we can determine the composition and evolution of the Universe from its birth to the present day…because precision of Planck’s map is so high, it also made it possible to reveal some peculiar unexplained features that may well require new physics to be understood.

    ‘The extraordinary quality of Planck’s portrait of the infant Universe allows us to peel back its layers to the very foundations, revealing that our blueprint of the cosmos is far from complete. Such discoveries were made possible by the unique technologies developed for that purpose by European industry,’ says Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General.

    ‘Since the release of Planck’s first all-sky image in 2010, we have been carefully extracting and analysing all of the foreground emissions that lie between us and the Universe’s first light, revealing the cosmic microwave background in the greatest detail yet,’ adds George Efstathiou of the University of Cambridge, UK.

    One of the most surprising findings is that the fluctuations in the CMB temperatures at large angular scales do not match those predicted by the standard model – their signals are not as strong as expected from the smaller scale structure revealed by Planck.

    Another is an asymmetry in the average temperatures on opposite hemispheres of the sky. This runs counter to the prediction made by the standard model that the Universe should be broadly similar in any direction we look. Furthermore, a cold spot extends over a patch of sky that is much larger than expected.

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    Asymmetry and cold spot

    The asymmetry and the cold spot had already been hinted at with Planck’s predecessor, NASA’s WMAP mission, but were largely ignored because of lingering doubts about their cosmic origin.

    ‘The fact that Planck has made such a significant detection of these anomalies erases any doubts about their reality; it can no longer be said that they are artefacts of the measurements. They are real and we have to look for a credible explanation,’ says Paolo Natoli of the University of Ferrara, Italy.

    ‘Imagine investigating the foundations of a house and finding that parts of them are weak. You might not know whether the weaknesses will eventually topple the house, but you’d probably start looking for ways to reinforce it pretty quickly all the same,’ adds François Bouchet of the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris.

    One way to explain the anomalies is to propose that the Universe is in fact not the same in all directions on a larger scale than we can observe. In this scenario, the light rays from the CMB may have taken a more complicated route through the Universe than previously understood, resulting in some of the unusual patterns observed today.”

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    See the full article here.

    ESA Space for Europe Banner

    Added in:

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 7:05 am on December 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA Planck: “Planck spots hot gas bridging galaxy cluster pair” 

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    XMM-Newton

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    Planck

    ESA’s Planck space telescope has made the first conclusive detection of a bridge of hot gas connecting a pair of galaxy clusters across 10 million light-years of intergalactic space.

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    Galaxy clusters connected by gas bridge

    Planck’s primary task is to capture the most ancient light of the cosmos, the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB. As this faint light traverses the Universe, it encounters different types of structure including galaxies and galaxy clusters – assemblies of hundreds to thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity. If the CMB light interacts with the hot gas permeating these huge cosmic structures, its energy distribution is modified in a characteristic way, a phenomenon known as the Sunyaev–Zel’dovich (SZ) effect, after the scientists who discovered it.”

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    Cosmic Microwave Background (BBC)

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.


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  • richardmitnick 12:59 pm on November 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA Space Science: “Planck spots hot gas bridging galaxy cluster pair” 

    XMM Newton
    XMM-Newton

    herschelHerschel


    Planck

    20 November 2012

    “ESA’s Planck space telescope has made the first conclusive detection of a bridge of hot gas connecting a pair of galaxy clusters across 10 million light-years of intergalactic space.

    image
    Galaxy clusters connected by gas bridge

    Planck’s primary task is to capture the most ancient light of the cosmos, the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB. As this faint light traverses the Universe, it encounters different types of structure including galaxies and galaxy clusters – assemblies of hundreds to thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity.

    If the CMB light interacts with the hot gas permeating these huge cosmic structures, its energy distribution is modified in a characteristic way, a phenomenon known as the Sunyaev–Zel’dovich (SZ) effect, after the scientists who discovered it.

    This effect has already been used by Planck to detect galaxy clusters themselves, but it also provides a way to detect faint filaments of gas that might connect one cluster to another.”

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.


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  • richardmitnick 8:16 pm on April 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA JPL: “NASA Extends Kepler, Spitzer, Planck Missions” 


    Jet Propulsion Lab

    Whitney Clavin
    April 05, 2012

    “NASA is extending three missions affiliated with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. — Kepler, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the U.S. portion of the European Space Agency’s Planck mission — as a result of the 2012 Senior Review of Astrophysics Missions.

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    From left to right, artist’s concepts of the Spitzer, Planck and Kepler space telescopes. NASA extended Spitzer and Kepler for two additional years; and the U.S. portion of Planck, a European Space Agency mission, for one year. The relative sizes of the artist’s concepts are not to scale. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    ‘This means scientists can continue using the three spacecraft to study everything from the birth of the universe with Planck, and galaxies, stars, planets, comets and asteroids with Spitzer, while Kepler is determining what percentage of sun-like stars host potentially habitable Earth-like planets,’ said Michael Werner, the chief scientist for astronomy and physics at JPL.”

    See the full article here.


    National Aeronautics and Space Administration

     
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