Goodbye Planck: Space Telescope Retires But Leaves A Lasting Legacy [SLIDESHOW]

on October 23 2013 2:39 PM
  • Baby Picture Of The Universe
    Planck captured this image of the universe as seen though the Cosmic Microwave Background, ancient light that was around when the universe was just 370,000 years old. ESA/Planck Collaboration
  • Matter Map Of The Universe
    Planck's matter map of the universe. According to the new data, the universe is made up of 26.8 percent dark matter, 68.3 percent dark energy and just 4.9 percent normal matter. ESA and Planck Collaboration
  • Planck Universe Maps
    Planck's all-sky maps as seen through nine different frequencies. ESA and the Planck Collaboration
  • Molecular Gas Map Of The Universe
    Planck was able to map the distribution of carbon monoxide throughout the universe. ESA and the Planck Collaboration
  • Shapley Supercluster
    Planck observed the largest known structure in the universe, the Shapley Supercluster. This object features more than 8,000 galaxies. ESA and the Planck Collaboration
  • Planck Image Of A Region In The Constellation Perseus
    An image of a star-forming region in the constellation Perseus. ESA and the Planck Collaboration
  • Planck Image Of The Sun
    Planck was able to observe "dust structures within 500 light-years of the sun." ESA and the Planck Collaboration
  • Galaxy Clusters Connected By A Gas Bridge
    Planck discovered two galaxy clusters that were connected by a bridge of hot gas that spanned 10 million light-years. ESA and the Planck Collaboration
  • Planck's Improved Observations
    A comparison of three different satellites tasked with observing the Cosmic Microwave Background. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA
  • Planck
    Artist's concept of Planck. NASA/ESA
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The Planck Space Telescope, operated by the European Space Agency, has retired but its legacy has already been secured. Planck imaged maps of the universe as well as giant structures in space, and the data it's collected since being launched in 2009 will continue to shape how astronomers view the universe.

On Wednesday, Jan Tauber, Planck project scientist, shut off its radio transmitter. The telescope will now orbit around the sun in “safe mode” after using all its fuel, reports Agence France-Presse. Planck was tasked to observe the Cosmic Microwave Background, and was able to capture images of the oldest light in the universe. Based on data collected by Planck, researchers were able to determine that the universe is 80 million years older than previously believed, and this level of accuracy has shaped how astronomers view galaxy formation as well the rate of expansion of the universe, notes AFP.

Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s director of science and robotic exploration, said in a statement, “Planck has provided us with more insight into the evolution of the universe than any mission has before.” Planck was an overachiever, originally tasked with two all-sky surveys but instead completing five surveys of the universe, notes AFP.

While Planck is retired, its data remains, and researchers are working on the latest release from earlier this year. Tauber said his team is currently working on Planck data that details the expansion of the universe, with the results to be released next year. As part of its last release, Planck was able to capture the "baby picture of the universe" and the data revised the proportion of normal matter, dark matter and dark energy in the universe.

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