UCSB physicists Peter Meinhold and Philip Lubin are among the scientists analyzing the first findings of the Planck — a third-generation satellite that measures radiation in the universe.
The mission is a combined effort between the European Space Agency and NASA. UCSB professors helped design prototypes for an instrument aboard the satellite and analyze the data collected.
Scientists project that the Planck mission will offer greater understanding of the origins of the universe. According to Meinhold, the satellite scans the entire sky and provides a never-before-seen look.
“The satellite is unique in that it measures radiation at nine different frequencies to peel back the foregrounds the find what is in the [cosmic microwave radiation] background,” Meinhold said.
Due to the technology’s sensitivity, Meinhold and Lubin have waded through very complex data to obtain the targeted background information. Although the procedure is time consuming, Lubin said the satellite mission is relevant not only to understanding the origins of the universe, but to its ultimate fate.
“A lot of this should be understood philosophically,” stated Lubin. “Where did we come from? How did we evolve? Our universe is doomed to die a very long slow cold death. The best knowledge that we have is that the universe will slowly teeter out; the stars will burn out; life, intelligence, thought, consciousness will all cease as we know them.”
Jatila Van Der Veen — the head of NASA’s Education and Public Outreach project for the Planck mission — organized the creation of a 3D flight simulator that will be installed at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s planetarium this winter.
“It allows you to fly with Planck standing in the middle of the solar system to watch Planck catch data that you cannot get anywhere else,” Van Der Veen said.