Planck vs WMAP: CMB OMG

There has been a lot of press and interest today for the first results from the Planck mission.  The headlines read "Planck reveals an almost perfect Universe", which I'm sure will finally win the telescope some loving approval from it's high-expectations namesake...

This space telescope is busy measuring the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, the fleeting thermal glow from the early universe. You can observe a piece of the CMB too - if you have an old TV, just turn it to static. Actually only a few % of that static noise is due to the CMB, but it's fun nonetheless!

When I was an undergrad I thought the CMB map produced by WMAP (the previous big name in this game) was incredible. Here's an animated gif I whipped up this morning comparing the Planck to WMAP results...

Two things stand out to me:

  1. Planck has remarkably better spatial resolution
  2. Planck chose a very different color scheme (smells like Python)

Planck was smart to ditch the gaudy rainbow color scheme. However, neither map does terribly well for colorblind people. Here I've run both the WMAP and Planck CMB maps through the handy online Vischeck tool...




Both these figures also desaturate very poorly to black/white, though the WMAP does a bit better. This is nitpicky, of course, but if you're going to have your results plastered across the world, choose a good color scheme. This is all in loving jest. Congrats to the Planck team on their great work!

Of course, no report of CMB results are complete without this seminal figure...

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