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Planck was a space observatory operated by the European Space Agency (ESA) from

2009 to 2013, which mapped the anisotropies of the cosmic microwave background (
CMB) at microwave and infra-red frequencies, with high sensitivity and small ang
ular resolution. The mission substantially improved upon observations made by th
e NASA Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). Planck provided a major sour
ce of information relevant to several cosmological and astrophysical issues, suc
h as testing theories of the early universe and the origin of cosmic structure;
as of 2013 it has provided the most accurate measurements of several key cosmolo
gical parameters, including the average density of ordinary matter and dark matt
er in the Universe.
The project was started around 1996 and was initially called COBRAS/SAMBA: the C
osmic Background Radiation Anisotropy Satellite/Satellite for Measurement of Bac
kground Anisotropies. It was later renamed in honour of the German physicist Max
Planck (1858 1947), who derived the formula for black-body radiation.
Built at the Cannes Mandelieu Space Center by Thales Alenia Space, and created a
s a medium-sized mission for ESA's Horizon 2000 long-term scientific programme,
Planck was launched in May 2009,[2] reaching the Earth/Sun L2 point by July, and
by February 2010 had successfully started a second all-sky survey. On 21 March
2013, the mission's first all-sky map of the cosmic microwave background was rel
eased, with an expanded release including polarization data in February 2015; fi
nal data analysis will continue into 2016.
At the end of its mission Planck was put into a heliocentric orbit and passivate
d to prevent it from endangering any future missions. The final deactivation com
mand was sent to Planck in October 2013.
In physical cosmology, the age of the universe is the time elapsed since the Big
Bang. The current measurement of the age of the universe is 13.7990.021 billion
years ((13.7990.021)109 years) within the Lambda-CDM concordance model.[1][2][3] T
he uncertainty of 21 million years has been obtained by the agreement of a numbe
r of scientific research projects, such as microwave background radiation measur
ements by the Planck satellite, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe and oth
er probes. Measurements of the cosmic background radiation give the cooling time
of the universe since the Big Bang,[4] and measurements of the expansion rate o
f the universe can be used to calculate its approximate age by extrapolating bac
kwards in time.
The Universe is all of time and space and its contents.[8][9][10][11] The Univer
se includes planets, stars, galaxies, the contents of intergalactic space, the s
mallest subatomic particles, and all matter and energy. The observable universe
is about 28 billion parsecs (91 billion light-years) in diameter at the present
time.[2] The size of the whole Universe is not known and may be infinite.[12] Ob
servations and the development of physical theories have led to inferences about
the composition and evolution of the Universe.
Throughout recorded history, cosmologies and cosmogonies, including scientific m
odels, have been proposed to explain observations of the Universe. The earliest
quantitative geocentric models were developed by ancient Greek philosophers and
Indian philosophers.[13][14] Over the centuries, more precise astronomical obser
vations led to Nicolaus Copernicus's heliocentric model of the Solar System and
Johannes Kepler's improvement on that model with elliptical orbits, which was ev
entually explained by Isaac Newton's theory of gravity. Further observational im
provements led to the realization that the Solar System is located in a galaxy c
omposed of billions of stars, the Milky Way. It was subsequently discovered that
our galaxy is one of many. On the largest scales, it is assumed that the distri
bution of galaxies is uniform and the same in all directions, meaning that the U
niverse has neither an edge nor a center. Observations of the distribution of th
ese galaxies and their spectral lines have led to many of the theories of modern
physical cosmology. The discovery in the early 20th century that galaxies are s

ystematically redshifted suggested that the Universe is expanding, and the disco
very of the cosmic microwave background radiation suggested that the Universe ha
d a beginning.[15] Finally, observations in the late 1990s indicated the rate of
the expansion of the Universe is increasing[16] indicating that the majority of
energy is most likely in an unknown form called dark energy. The majority of ma
ss in the universe also appears to exist in an unknown form, called dark matter.
The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model describing the developm
ent of the Universe. Space and time were created in the Big Bang, and these were
imbued with a fixed amount of energy and matter; as space expands, the density
of that matter and energy decreases. After the initial expansion, the Universe c
ooled sufficiently to allow the formation first of subatomic particles and later
of simple atoms. Giant clouds of these primordial elements later coalesced thro
ugh gravity to form stars. Assuming that the prevailing model is correct, the ag
e of the Universe is measured to be 13.7990.021 billion years.[1]
There are many competing hypotheses about the ultimate fate of the Universe. Phy
sicists and philosophers remain unsure about what, if anything, preceded the Big
Bang. Many refuse to speculate, doubting that any information from any such pri
or state could ever be accessible. There are various multiverse hypotheses, in w
hich some physicists have suggested that the Universe might be one among many un
iverses that likewise exist.[17][18]