Planck is a European Space Agency medium-sized mission which will be launched together with the Herschel Space Observatory in 2007. This is a survey instrument which will map the entire sky at millimetre-wave frequencies. The main scientific driver for Planck is cosmology. It will measure the Cosmic Microwave Background to unprecedented precision and, most importantly, will measure the anisotropies in the Cosmic Microwave Background. This is fundamental to our understanding of the nature of the Universe.
As a survey instrument, Planck will also make important contributions to many scientific topics in astronomy. For example, the complete survey of the Galactic Plane will improve our understanding of our own galaxy, including answering some fundamental questions such as how stars are formed and how they evolve in our own "neighbourhood" of the Milky Way galaxy.
There are two scientific instruments onboard. The Low Frequency Instrument (LFI) is a multi-beam radiometer working between the frequencies of 30 GHz and 100 GHz. This instrument is being built by a large international consortium led by the Italian Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica.
The High Frequency Instrument (HFI) uses cryogenically cooled bolometers to detect radiation in the frequency range 100 GHz to 857 GHz. This instrument is also being built by a large multi-national consortium, which is led by the French Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale.
Canada is involved in both instruments, mainly in the development of Quick Look Analysis software and Real Time Analysis software for scientific checkout of the data at early stages. Canada will also support the calibration facility for the High Frequency Instrument.
For more information on Planck, please visit the European Space Agency website.