About 150 cosmologists and astrophysicists will meet from 30 January
until 2 February at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in
Noordwijk, the Netherlands, to discuss the scientific programme of ESA’s
next mission to study the origin of the Universe, the Planck satellite.

Due to be launched in 2007, Planck will observe radiation that was released shortly after the Big Bang and that is still filling the Universe, as if it was a ‘shockwave’ of the Big Bang itself. This radiation, called ‘Cosmic Microwave Background’ or CMB, contains a wealth of information about when the Universe started to expand and cool itself, 10 to 15 billion years ago. To ‘read’ this information scientists have to measure the temperature of the whole sky with a very high accuracy. ESA’s Planck will provide the most accurate data ever obtained. They will provide answers to fundamental questions such as: how old is the Universe? Will it collapse into a ‘Big Crunch’ sometime in the future? Is there any ‘dark energy’ accelerating the expansion of the Universe?

The fact that about 300 scientists from more than 40 institutions are involved in Planck illustrates the high scientific value of this European mission. No other mission to study the CMB has ever gathered that many research groups. Representatives of all of them will attend the meeting at ESTEC, during which some of the most delicate aspects of the mission will be discussed. For instance, Planck will provide an enourmous amount of data -it will take more than 100 billion measurements-, the analysis of which will be very complex and will require specific software and good coordination between the many teams involved.

The sessions will be very technical, but the participants are available for interviews with the media, on the following days: 31 January and 1 February.

Some of the scientists attending the meeting are:

Joseph Silk, University of Oxford (UK). Most of his scientific research is related to the CMB and cosmology in general. He is author or co-author of more than 300 papers in refereed journals, as well as of many popular articles and books such as “The Left Hand of Creation”; “Cosmic Enigmas”; and “A Short History of the Universe”.

Neil Turok, Cambridge University (UK). His research interests cover aspects of fundamental theoretical physics connected to the origin and structure of the Universe observed today. He has made pioneering contributions to early Universe physics including inflation, topological defects and the origin of the matter-antimatter asymmetry. He has contributed to the theory of the cosmic microwave fluctuations, and the theory of dark matter in the Universe. His recent work concerns theories of the beginning of the Universe.

Paolo de Bernardis, University of Rome “La Sapienza” (Italy). He has been involved in several experiments to measure the cosmic backgrond. He is the co-principal investigator of the BOOMERanG experiment, a new-generation telescope designed to map the CMB during a long duration balloon flight, the results for which have recently been published. He is currently involved in the Italian-US MAXIMA experiment, a balloon telescope also aimed at mapping the CMB. De Bernardis is co-investigator of one of the instruments on board Planck.

For more infmation please contact:

Jan Tauber, Planck project scientist
Tel +31 71 565-5342
e-mail: mailto:jtauber@astro.estec.esa.nl

ESA Science Communication Service
Monica Talevi

Tel +31 71 565 3223
e-mail: mailto:mtalevi@estec.esa.nl