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Planck Telescope Is Coolest Spacecraft Ever 196

Hugh Pickens writes "Launched in May, BBC reports that Europe's Planck observatory has reached its operating temperature, a staggering minus 273.05C — just a tenth of a degree above what scientists term "absolute zero." and although laboratory set-ups have got closer to absolute zero than Planck, researchers say it is unlikely there is anywhere in space currently that is colder than their astronomical satellite. This frigidity should ensure the bolometers will be at their most sensitive as they look for variations in the temperature of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) that are about a million times smaller than one degree — comparable to measuring from Earth the heat produced by a rabbit sitting on the Moon. Planck has been sent to an observation position around the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system, L2, some 1.5 million km from Earth and Planck will help provide answers to one of the most important sets of questions asked in modern science — how did the Universe begin, how did it evolve to the state we observe today, and how will it continue to evolve in the future. Planck's objectives include mapping of Cosmic Microwave Background anisotropies with improved sensitivity and angular resolution, determination of the Hubble constant, testing inflationary models of the early Universe, and measuring amplitude of structures in Cosmic Microwave Background. 'We will be probing regimes that have never been studied before where the physics is very, very uncertain,' says Planck investigator Professor George Efstathiou from Cambridge University. 'It's possible we could find a signature from before the Big Bang; or it's possible we could find the signature of another Universe and then we'd have experimental evidence that we are part of a multi-verse.'"

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