ESA Science News

Planck, ESA’s satellite to study the origins of the Universe, will make its first ‘public appearance’ this week in Bologna (Italy): a full-scale mock-up of the satellite, due for launch in 2007, will be unveiled for the first time at the ‘Settimana della cultura scientifica’ (‘Scientific knowledge week’) organised by the Institutes of the Italian Research Council (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche) of the Bologna Research Area. by the Bologna Research Area and the Italian research council (the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche). The mock-up, a structure of wood and aluminium recently built for technical purposes, will now serve to explain how Planck will answer the most fundamental questions about the Universe.
The ‘Settimana della cultura scientifica’ aims at raising the public awareness of science, offering from Monday 20th to Sunday 26th
attractive exhibitions; daily lectures; and special ‘learn-more’ sections for interested public. This third edition, ‘Universo 2000’, is specially oriented to astronomy and cosmology. It proposes a ‘trip’ from the origins of the universe to the present time, with sections devoted to the Big Bang, the physics of the most energetic phenomena — such as black holes and gamma ray bursts — the galaxies and galaxy clusters, the Solar System and the search for new planets and life. Planet Earth and life on it also have their section.
"Cosmology is really a fascinating subject, and I’m really convinced that we can convey our enthusiasm to the general public", says organiser Luca Valenziano, from the Istituto di Tecnologie e Studio delle Radiazioni Extraterrestri (TESRE), in Bologna.
Planck, a mission designed to answer the most fundamental questions about the universe — its age, how was it in its very early moments of existence, how will it evolve in the future … is the ideal symbol for the event.
The Planck mock-up is about 5 metres high and 4.5 metres wide, painted according to a colour-code that differentiates the main parts of the satellite: a 1.5 metre telescope, the detectors and the ‘service module’. The detectors for Planck are being built now by research centres groups in two Consortia, one of which is headed by Italian astonomer Reno Mandolesi, at the TESRE/CNR.
At the ‘Settimana’ it will be also possible to visit a planetarium, a huge model of the Solar System (scale of 1cm/100,000 km) and other models of several space missions, such as ESA’s Giotto, Cluster I, Ulysses and ERS-1 and also the Italian SAX. Organisers expect over 500 students, and more than a thousand people during the weekend.
Footnote about Planck
The Planck satellite, one of ESA’s main missions for this decade, has been designed to help answer key questions for humankind: how the Universe came to be and how it will evolve. To fulfil its mission Planck will examine the first light that filled the Universe after the Big Bang, the so-called Cosmic Microwave Background radiation. It will carry two arrays of highly sensitive detectors that are now being built by more than 40 institutes, the majority of them European, with several from the United States. Planck will be launched in 2007 together with ESA’s far-infrared space telescope, FIRST. They will separate shortly after launch and will be operated independently at similar orbits located about 1.5 million kilometres away from Earth.
For the ‘Settimana della cultura scientifica’:
Luca Valenziano
For Planck:
Jan Tauber, Planck project scientist
Tel: +31 71 565 5342
* More about Planck
Artist impression of ESA’s Planck (bottom) and FIRST satellites just after separation.