Planck mission brings universe into sharp focus

Planck mission

Planck mission reveals universe (Photo courtesy of the European Space Agency)

Princeton researchers contributed extensively to the Planck space mission that earlier this year released the most accurate and detailed map ever made of the oldest light in the universe, revealing new information about its age, contents and origins.

The results suggest that the universe is expanding more slowly than scientists thought, and is 13.8 billion years old, about 100 million years older than previous estimates. The data also show there is less dark energy and more matter — both matter that we can see and invisible dark matter — in the universe than previously thought. Princeton researchers helped design and implement an essential scientific instrument on the European Space Agency’s Planck mission through the agency’s collaboration with NASA. Princeton astrophysicists worked with scientists from the United States, Europe and Canada to analyze the Planck data.

“The Planck satellite has expanded the knowledge we gained from previous missions,” said William Jones, a Princeton assistant professor of physics who was involved in the design of a detector that surveys light at high frequencies.

-By Catherine Zandonella