Planck: the coldest point on the universe

July 13, 2009

On the 3 July, the High Frequency Instrument (HFI) of the Planck satellite reached its nominal performance temperature: 0.1 degrees above absolute zero, that is – 273°C.

To reach this temperature in space is a world first. The performance temperature was reached 50 days after the launch, in conformity with the predictions. To achieve this, Planck used a cooling system which, for the first time, called for skilled, innovative technology for spatial application. Thanks to this prowess, from 2012, astronomers should have unprecedented information of unheard-of accuracy, and be able to lift the veil on the origin and evolution of the universe.

A technological exploit as well* for the Air Liquide Group which developed a dilution cooler for this mission producing never-before-seen results. The Planck cooling system is comprised of a cryogenic chain which consists of several stages, of which the last is the dilution cooler provided by Air Liquide. It is a system which uses gases of very high purity, such as helium.

Once again, the Group demonstrates its leadership in the technologies of very low temperature cryogenics, which enables it to join major scientific programmes and push back the limits of knowledge.

* in close collaboration with the experts of the Néel Institute (CNRS, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France – National Centre for Scientific Research), and the IAS (Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale – Institute of Space Astrophysics) on behalf of the CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, France - National Centre for Space Studies).


For more information: about the Hershel and Planck missions