The Planck Mission

Artist's image of the Planck instrument

Planck is the third generation of space-based cosmic microwave background experiments, after NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) and NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). It is also the third Medium-Sized Mission (M3) of European Space Agency's (ESA's) Horizon 2000 Scientific Program. The basic scientific goal of the Planck mission is to measure CMB anisotropies at all angular scales larger than 10 arcminutes over the entire sky with a precision of ~2 parts per million. The model payload consists of a 1.5 meter off-axis telescope with two focal plane arrays of detectors sharing the focal plane. Low frequencies will be covered by 56 tuned radio receivers sensitive to 30-100 GHz, while high frequencies will be covered by 56 bolometers sensitive to 100-850 GHz. The spacecraft will take 6 months to reach the L2 Lagrange point, from where it will map the full sky in another 6 months.

The Planck Science Team site includes recent project news, a picture gallery, public documents, a technical overview, a scientific overview, schedules, and a link to the instrument consortia (High Frequency Instrument, Low Frequency Instrument and Telescope).

The Planck team has released a source catalog, including a list of galaxy clusters detected through the Sunyaev Zel'dovich (SZ) effect; this catalog is knows as the Planck Early Release Compact Source Catalogue (ERCSC). The entire catalog is available for download through the ESA Planck Legacy Archive and the NASA Infrared Science Archive,. The SZ component is also available for download here at LAMBDA and can be queried and/or cross-correlated with many other tables using Browse.

Planck In-Flight Specifications and ERCSC Sensitivity
Channel: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Band (GHz) 30 44 70 100 143 217 353 545 857
λ (μ)m 10000 6818 4286 3000 2098 1382 850 550 350
Sky Coverage (%) 99.96 99.98 99.99 99.97 99.82 99.88 99.88 99.80 99.79
Beam FWHMa (arcmin) 32.65 27.00 13.01 9.94 7.04 4.66 4.41 4.47 4.23
10σb (mJy) 1173 2286 2250 1061 750 807 1613 2074 2961
10σc (mJy) 487 1023 673 500 328 280 249 471 813
Flux Density Limitd (mJy) 480 585 481 344 206 183 198 381 655

a The precise beam values are presented in Zacchei et al. (2011) and Planck HFI Core Team (2011). This table shows the values which were adopted for the ERCSC.
b Flux density of the median > 10σ source at |b| > 30o in the ERCSC. σ is the photometric noise wich is a combination of sky background and instrument noise.
c Flux density of the faintest > 10σ source at |b| > 30o in the ERCSC.
d Faintenst source at |b| > 30o in the ERCSC.


  • Planck HFI Core Team, 2011, Planck early Results 06: The High Frequency Instrument data processing, submitted to A.A.
  • Zacchei, et.al., 2011, Planck early Results 05: The Low Frequency Instrument data processing, submitted to A.A.
  • The ERCSC Explanatory Supplement. This document was the primary source for the information presented here.
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