First light from Planck

The Planck spacecraft launched in May will give us much more detailed maps of the cosmic microwave background than ever before. So it is good news that its first light survey over a narrow strip through the sky indicates that its instruments are all working very well. The first light survey would probably not give us any exiting scientific results, but its success bodes well for its future. We could be looking towards tremendous discoveries in cosmology after the end of 2012, which is when Planck's data from the cosmic microwave background will be released.

Planck first light survey
Planck first light survey

Launch of Herschel and Planck

Launch of Herschel and Planck
Launch of Herschel and Planck

The Herschel and Planck spacecraft have been successfully launched from the same rocket. Herschel is the largest infrared and submillimeter space telescope to date and is intended to observe the far infrared portion of the cosmic background, which should reveal details of how galaxies and stars formed in the earliest periods of the universe. Planck will observe the cosmic microwave background in unprecedented detail, which will let us check out several theories for the origin of the universe such as how inflation may have occurred or the shape of our universe.

It's great to see the successful launch of two spacecraft that will both study the early universe. Given that two spacecraft depended on this successful launch by the ESA, it's a huge relief.