Archive for July 6, 2009

News from L2

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , on July 6, 2009 by telescoper

Just a quick update with a couple of bits of news about Planck.

First, the satellite has completed its final  manoeuvre and is now in its orbit around the second lagrange point. The  orbit is, in fact, slightly smaller than was originally planned owing to the fact that the extreme accuracy of the post-launch trajectory left a bit of extra fuel. Anyway, it’s now about 1.5 million kilometres from home, circling L2 which is what it will be doing for about a year.

The second bit of news has been the cause of particular celebration here at Cardiff. The High Frequency Instrument (HFI) has been cooling down since launch and has now reached its operating temperature of 0.1K (100 milliKelvin). The environment it is sitting in is about 60-70K so it’s no easy job to get it down to such a low level. Anyway, it’s now definitely the coolest thing in space…

The Cardiff HFI team celebrated on Friday, with beer that was no doubt suitably chilled.

Planck spins at about 1 revolution per minute and has been sending back scans of the sky for test purposes.  The HFI scans show that it is working well, detecting dust emission from the Galactic Plane well before it got down to sufficiently low temperatures to see the cosmic microwave background.

What happens next is the Calibration and Performance Verification phase during which the instruments will be checked out in great detail before the real science gets started in August.