Planck spacecraft reveals ancient view of the Universe

Earlier this month, the first full sky image of ancient cosmic light from around 13 billion years ago (that's just 380,000-ish years after the big bang!) was revealed. This is thanks to the Planck telescope, created especially to capture light at wavelengths greater than we humans can see.

Taking six months to assemble, this photograph is the first to come out of the £600-million mission since it was launched by the ESA on May 14th last year, and is the view looking away from Earth's "night-side" from over one million kilometres away. Combining a full year's worth of observations allows us to scan the whole of the sky, because the Earth orbits all the way around the Sun in that time.

All sky image of the Infrared Universe
All sky image of the Infrared Universe taken by the Planck spacecraft - © ESA

Although it may not look like much, the line across the centre of the picture is in fact our own Milky Way galaxy. However, there are more galaxies to be found around the image, including Centaurus A, M31 Andromeda and the Magellanic clouds, amongst many other objects. However, what we think of as traditional stars will not be found in this photograph, for the nine frequencies of wavelength that Planck records with unprecedented accuracy, including the far-infrared, only detect the dust and gas that will eventually create stars.

From the scatter of dust, scientists can see how the galaxies form, and can compare them with one another. Data relating to the temperature of the ancient heat energy is also being collected, with the hope that when combined with a further three images to be produced by Planck, enough information will be gained to make some essential conclusions about the creation of our Universe.

If you would like to find out more about the Planck mission, click HERE.