July 7, 2010

The First Image of the Entire Universe

Planck Telescope Reveals Universe Image

The first image of the entire universe taken from Europe's Planck telescope has been published.

05 July 2010

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.

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.

Also seen are huge bursts of cold dust that reach thousands of light-years above and below the galactic plane.

Scientists will spend years analysing the image to better understand how the Universe came to look the way it does.

"What you see is the structure of our galaxy in gas and dust, which tells us an awful lot about what is going on in the neighbourhood of the Sun; and it tells us a lot about the way galaxies form when we compare this to other galaxies," Professor Andrew Jaffe, a Planck team member from Imperial College London, told BBC News.