The Planck Space Telescope: Surveying the Sky

Launch: May 14, 2009
Status: Mission Completed

Planck is Europe's first mission to study the birth of the Universe. Planck was launched jointly with the Herschel Space Observatory aboard an Ariane 5 rocket, on May 14, 2009. The satellite is the most sensitive telescope ever designed to study the cosmic microwave background--the remnants of radiation from the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. Planck's detectors measure the temperature of this light, searching for regions that are slightly warmer or colder than the average. These small fluctuations in temperature, called anisotropies, provided the seeds for the formation of galaxies that exist today.

The Planck satellite is giving astronomers a glimpse of conditions near the beginning of the Universe. The mission's objective is to help answer some fundamental questions of modern science: How was the Universe formed? How has it evolved to its present form? And what shape will it take in the future? Scientists thereby hope to establish which theory best explains the origin of all cosmic structures.

Drs J. Richard Bond of the University of Toronto and Douglas Scott of the University of British Columbia co-lead a Canadian science team that plays a key role in the Planck collaboration. Dr. Bond is on the faculty at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA) and directs the Cosmology and Gravity Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR). The team includes astrophysicists at the University of Toronto, University of Alberta, Université Laval and McGill University.