British space mission to uncover 'secrets of universe'



London, May 2: A British space mission, which would include two deep space telescopes, dubbed Herschel and Planck, will probe the ancient history of the cosmos going right back to the dawn of time at the Big Bang - and possibly before.


According to a report in the Telegraph, the European Space Agency probes would be fired into space on an Arianne 5 rocket on May 14.

Astronomers hope the satellites will answer some of the biggest questions in science, such as how the universe came into being, why it looks the way it does and how stars and galaxies are born.

"This is going to change our view of the universe and where we have all come from," Mission chief Professor David Southwood said. "We are talking about the origin of galaxies and stars and even life itself," he added.

The 7.5m Herschel probe, named after the astronomer William Herschel the discoverer of Uranus, will be the largest telescope ever put into space, built around a huge 3.5m diameter mirror.

Its high-tech sensors, which detect far-infrared radiation, are designed to peer through dust clouds to observe the mysterious process of how stars and galaxies are created.

Meanwhile Planck, named after the father of quantum mechanics, will study the minute fluctuations in the background 'echo' left over from the Big Bang - called Cosmic Microwave Background - to map the universe in the finest detail ever.

According to scientists, the results, which should give clues to the structure of the infant universe 14 billion years ago, could radically change human understanding of the most fundamental principles of physics.

"Planck is going to allow us to travel right back to the very beginning of time," said Professor Richard Holdaway, of funding body the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

"We know there must have been structure there at the time of the Big Bang, and possibly before the Big Bang, " said Cambridge University physicist Professor George Efstathiou, leading member of the Planck team. "That's what we hope this will tell us," he added.

The results could also offer insights into the much vaunted string theory, which involves a complex 11-dimensional universe, with seven 'hidden' dimensions on top of the four observable dimensions of space and time.

"We might find signatures of pre-Big Bang physics. We might find evidence of cosmic defects - superstrings in the sky," said Efstathiou.

"Unravelling the physical information may tell us something about the warped geometry of the hidden dimensions," he added.


Copyright Asian News International/DailyIndia.com