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Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2009

27 June 2009

Space Station

An astronomy project which is underway to investigate some of the biggest and unanswered questions about our universe will go under the spotlight this summer at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2009.

Scientists from the School of Physics and Astronomy will be presenting their work on the Herschel and Planck missions – the biggest European space-based astronomy projects of recent times. These missions have embarked on an exploration of the universe throughout almost its entire history, from just moments after the Big Bang, through the formation and evolution of galaxies, to the birth of stars and planets in our own galaxy today.

The Summer Science Exhibition is the highlight of the Royal Society's calendar showcasing the UK's cutting edge science, and the minds behind it. The exhibit entitled - From the oldest light to the youngest stars: the Herschel and Planck missions is one of only 21 that have been chosen from more than 100 across the UK to take part in this prestigious event. The event attracts more than 5000 visitors and 1000 invited VIPs across the week.

Mr Chris North and colleagues from Cardiff’s Astronomy Instrumentation Group will be at the Exhibition in London from Tuesday 30 June to Saturday 4 July, alongside researchers at other UK institutions who are working with the European Space Agency and other international partners on the Planck and Herschel satellite project which launched recently.

Professor North said: "We are incredibly honoured to have been invited to exhibit at the Royal Society. The Herschel Space Observatory and Planck Surveyor missions will transform what we know about the universe today. They will provide a significantly different view of our universe, one we have never had the opportunity to see before in such detail."

The Cardiff Astronomy Instrumentation Group has made major contributions to the Herschel SPIRE and Planck HFI instruments and the mission will be looking to try to answer some of the biggest questions humans have ever asked, such as 'what is the universe made of?' or 'how did the galaxy, our sun and the Earth all form?

The two missions will look at light usually blocked by the Earth's atmosphere. Planck will look at the cosmic microwave background, the relic of the big bang, and how the evolution of the universe has left an imprint on it. Herschel will look at the birth of galaxies and stars, and the building blocks of the planetary systems forming today.

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