|A beautiful picture of Planck from this recent article at Universe Today|
First, the quickie Wiki explanation:
Planck is a space observatory launched in 2009 designed to observe the anisotropies of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) over the entire sky, using high sensitivity and angular resolution. Planck was built in the Cannes Mandelieu Space Center by Thales Alenia Space and created as the third Medium-Sized Mission (M3) of the European Space Agency's Horizon 2000 Scientific Programme. The project, initially called COBRAS/SAMBA, is named in honour of the German physicist Max Planck (1858–1947), who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1918.
Planck was launched in May 2009, reaching the Earth/Sun's L2 Lagrangian point in July, and by February 2010 had successfully started a second all-sky survey. Preliminary data from these surveys have been released, and results are said to indicate that the data quality is excellent. Planck is expected to yield definitive data on a number of astronomical issues by 2012. The mission will complement and improve upon observations made by the NASA Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which has measured the anisotropies at larger angular scales and lower sensitivity than Planck. Planck will provide a major source of information relevant to several cosmological and astrophysical issues, such as testing theories of the early universe and the origin of cosmic structure.
What was missed I believe were thre beautiful "compact sources" photographs:
|The large yellow blob in the southeast quadrant is The Large Magellanic Cloud|
If you wish to read ESA's spacecraft operations details you may click here.
The Planck Science Team's home page is here, along with links to the Planck Early Results papers and the Early Release Compact Source Catalogue.
The upshot is most of the Planck mission will be over at the end of 2011. A second all-sky survey is currently in progress. Expect results about one year from now when Roger Penrose can start looking for his Big Crunch bubbles in the Cosmic Microwave Background.
Here is a nice 1:20 video of Planck:
And now, on to Herschel:
The Wiki quickie:
The Herschel Space Observatory is a European Space Agency space observatory sensitive to the far infrared and submillimetre wavebands. It is the largest space telescope ever launched, carrying a single mirror of 3.5 meter in diameter.
The Herschel Observatory is capable of seeing the coldest and dustiest objects in space; for example, cool cocoons where stars form and dusty galaxies just starting to bulk up with new stars. The observatory will sift through star-forming clouds—the "slow cookers" of star ingredients—to trace the path by which potentially life-forming molecules, such as water, form. The United States through NASA is participating in the ESA-built and -operated observatory. It is the fourth 'cornerstone' mission in the ESA science program, along with Rosetta, Planck, and the Gaia mission.
Herschel was instrumental in the discovery of an unknown and unexpected step in the star forming process. The initial confirmation and later verification via help from ground based telescopes of a vast hole of empty space, previously believed to be a dark nebula, in the area NGC 1999 shed new light in the way newly forming star regions discard the material which surrounds it.
On July 16, 2010, a special issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics was published with 152 papers on initial results from the observatory.
Here is a quick 3-D animation from ESA on Hershel: