Launched less than two years ago the Planck Space Telescope has released a new catalogue of data that includes thousands of never before seen dusty cocoons where stars are forming and some of the most massive clusters of galaxies ever observed. Planck’s mission is to detect light from just a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang, an explosive event at the dawn of the universe approximately 13.7 billion years ago. Planck is a European Space Agency led mission with contributions from NASA and the Canadian Space Agency.
The Canadian Space Agency provided funds so that two Canadian research teams could participate in the development of both of Planck’s science instruments, the Low Frequency Instrument (LFI) and the High Frequency Instrument (HFI) and collaborate in the scientific research. Professor Douglas Scott of the University of British Columbia is leading the Canadian LFI team and Professor J. Richard Bond of the University of Toronto is leading the HFI team.
To date 25 scientific papers have been produced in the first two years of operation of the Planck Space Telescope.
Planck has already nearly completed three of its four planned surveys of the entire sky. The Planck team has produced a guidebook of 10 000 foreground objects that will become targets for future study, including several new astronomical structures:
- 189 gigantic clusters of galaxies, including 20 that have never been seen before.
- Cold dust clouds where stars are forming, among the coldest ever discovered, and the first all-sky census.
- Dark gas, a previously undetected type of molecular gas found clinging to the edges of giant molecular clouds in the Milky Way, and which may have an impact on galaxy format ion and evolution.
- Peculiar grains of cold dust that spin up to ten billion times per second.
The Planck Space Telescope next data release is scheduled for January 2013.