We released 25 new papers today.


Jan. 11, 2011

Trent Perrotto
Headquarters, Washington

Whitney Clavin
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
whitney.clavin@jpl.nasa.gov �
RELEASE: 11-011


WASHINGTON — The Planck mission released a new data catalogue Tuesday
from initial maps of the entire sky. The catalogue includes thousands
of never-before-seen dusty cocoons where stars are forming and some
of the most massive clusters of galaxies ever observed. Planck is a
European Space Agency (ESA) mission with significant contributions
from NASA.

“NASA is pleased to support this important mission, and we have
eagerly awaited Planck’s first discoveries,” said Jon Morse, NASA’s
Astrophysics Division director at the agency’s headquarters in
Washington. “We look forward to continued collaboration with ESA and
more outstanding science to come.”

Planck launched in May 2009 on a mission 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. The
spacecraft’s state-of-the-art detectors ultimately will survey the
whole sky at least four times, measuring the cosmic microwave
background, or radiation left over from the Big Bang. The data will
help scientists decipher clues about the evolution, fate and fabric
of our universe. While these cosmology results won’t be ready for
another two years or so, early observations of specific objects in
our Milky Way galaxy, as well as more distant galaxies, are being

“The data we’re releasing now are from what lies between us and the
cosmic microwave background,” said Charles Lawrence, the U.S. project
scientist for Planck at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena,
Calif. We ultimately will subtract these data out to get at our
cosmic microwave background signal. But by themselves, these early
observations offer up new information about objects in our universe
— both close and far away, and everything in between,” Lawrence

Planck observes the sky at nine wavelengths of light, ranging from
infrared to radio waves. Its technology has greatly improved
sensitivity and resolution over its predecessor missions, NASA’s
Cosmic Background Explorer and Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe.

The result is a windfall of data on known and never-before-seen cosmic
objects. Planck has catalogued approximately 10,000 star-forming
“cold cores,” thousands of which are newly discovered. The cores are
dark and dusty nurseries where baby stars are just beginning to take

They also are some of the coldest places in the universe. Planck’s new
catalogue includes some of the coldest cores ever seen, with
temperatures as low as seven degrees above absolute zero, or minus
447 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to see the coldest gas and dust in
the Milky Way, Planck’s detectors were chilled to only 0.1 kelvins.

The new catalogue also contains some of the most massive clusters of
galaxies known, including a handful of newfound ones. The most
massive of these holds the equivalent of a million billion suns worth
of mass, making it one of the most massive galaxy clusters known.

Galaxies in our universe are bound together into these larger
clusters, forming a lumpy network across the cosmos. Scientists study
the clusters to learn more about the evolution of galaxies and dark
matter and dark energy — the exotic substances that constitute the
majority of our universe.

“Because Planck is observing the whole sky, it is giving us a
comprehensive look at how all the smaller structures of the universe
are connected to the whole,” said Jim Bartlett, a U.S. Planck team
member at JPL and the Astroparticule et Cosmologie-Universite Paris
Diderot in France.

Planck’s new catalogue also includes unique data on the pools of hot
gas that permeate roughly 14,000 smaller clusters of galaxies; the
best data yet on the cosmic infrared background, which is made up of
light from stars evolving in the early universe; and new observations
of extremely energetic galaxies spewing radio jets. The catalogue
covers about one-and-one-half sky scans.

For more information about Planck, visit: