Get ready to talk the Planck

Don’t miss the chance to quiz leading scientists from the Planck research team about their work, and how it may change our understanding of the universe, in a live webcast this week

Even the most die-hard inflation advocate would have to accept that the universe, on large scales, looks odd
George Efstathiou

Live video stream starts here at 20:00 BST on 31 July. Email questions now to info [a] kavlifoundation (p) org , or tweet using the hashtag #KavliAstro

Earlier this year, researchers unveiled the most detailed picture of the early Universe created to date - but it was far more than just a map. In time, their findings could change our ideas about the beginnings of the universe, and of existence itself.

This week, three leading members of the Planck research team who carried out the study will be taking part in a live webcast to answer people’s questions about what they found, and what it might mean.

We’ll be hosting the live video stream right here on Wednesday, 31 July, at 20:00 BST, and you can start sending your questions right now. Just Email info [a] kavlifoundation (p) org , or post on Twitter, using the hashtag #KavliAstro.

All the information you need to get involved is below. If you are reading this before the webcast itself, don’t forget to bookmark this page, so that you can tune in!

What’s happening?

Three leading members of the Planck research team will be taking part in the live webcast. They are: George Efstathiou and Anthony Lasenby (both from the Kavli Institute for Cosmology at the University of Cambridge), and Krzyszytof Gorski, Senior Research Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, and faculty member at the Warsaw University Observatory in Poland.

The discussion will be hosted by the Kavli Foundation in Oxnard, California. It will be chaired by Bruce Lieberman, a science reporter with 20 years experience working in the news media.

When and where can I tune in?

The webcast will be from 12 noon until 12.30pm, Pacific Daylight Time (20:00 - 20:30 BST here in the UK).

You can watch the webcast on this page, or at the Kavli Foundation’s own website, which is here. We will also be trailing the story on the front page of on the day itself, so that you can’t miss it.

If you cannot tune into the broadcast at that time, don’t worry - the recorded video will still be online in the same locations after the show has finished.

Can anyone get involved?

Pretty much - we’re expecting a wide spectrum of participants, from scientists, to schoolchildren, to get involved. Everyone is welcome to Email their questions through. The team at the Kavli Foundation will then choose the best ones to put to the researchers on the day.

What is this all about?

The Planck spacecraft, operated by the European Space Agency, has been used to create an incredibly detailed map of the universe. This image is more precise than ever before, because it shows the oldest light from our universe - the Cosmic Microwave Background (or CMB) - which is relic radiation left over from the Big Bang. By studying this, researchers hope to find out more about the origins, make-up, and the ultimate fate of our universe.

Earlier this year, when the map was created, researchers also spotted a number of large-scale features that they could not explain. The picture shows fluctuations in temperature in the CMB which are quite surprising. For example, the team have identified a large cold spot, which corresponds to a surprisingly large area of high density.

One of the underlying ideas about the Big Bang model of the universe’s origins is an idea called inflation. This proposes that a tiny fraction of a second  after the Big Bang itself, the universe expanded at a very fast, exponential rate. If this is true, however, then researchers would expect the fluctuations in the CMB to look rather different compared with the image created by the Planck spacecraft.

While the research is ongoing, any explanation of these anomalies is likely to change what we currently understand about how the universe - and therefore existence itself - began.

George Efstathiou has explained: "Even the most die-hard inflation advocate would have to accept that the universe, on large scales, looks odd. The big question is whether new physics is associated with that oddness."

Where can I find out more?

You can read all about the map of the universe which the research team created using the Planck satellite on our own website here.

Plus, to whet your appetite for the webcast, the researchers involved have also taken part in a roundtable discussion on the Kavli Foundation website.

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