The first image of the microwave sky was released today by the Planck collaboration. The image is the result of a year of observations from the Planck satellite. How far we have come since the first image of the cosmic microwave background by COBE! The most prominent aspect of the image is the bright band across sky caused by diffuse gas and dust emission from our own Milky Way. Also visible are local clouds of gas, nearby galaxies such as Andromeda, and more distant galaxies which host supermassive black holes in their center. The more subtle variations which will be visible when the foregrounds are removed are tiny temperature fluctuations which carry information about the cosmic microwave background and primordial density fluctuations seeded by the Big Bang. However, scientists are waiting to dive into detailed analysis of the multi-frequency data ranging from 30 GHz to 857 GHz until all of the foregrounds and telescope systematics can be understood. Ultimately the Planck data will give us the most precise constraints humans have ever had on the parameters of our cosmos.
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