Planck: Jean-Loup Puget, winner of the 2018 Shaw and Gruber Prizes

The Shaw Foundation has just awarded the 2018 Shaw Award in the Astronomy category to Jean-Loup Puget, Emeritus Director of Research at the Institute for Space Astrophysics (IAS - UPSud/CNRS) for his work in the detection of cosmological and astrophysical radiation in the infra-red and microwave spectral range. A few days earlier, the Gruber Foundation had awarded the 2018 Cosmology Prize, to him as well as to Italian researcher Nazzareno Mandolesi and the Planck team. Jean-Loup Puget is the main HFI (high frequency) instrument, developed by the IAS and Nazzareno Mandolesi for the LFI (low frequency) instrument which are fitted to the Planck satellite.

© CNES/Rachel Barranco, 2014

How old is the universe? What shape does it have? How will it develop? In order to answer all these questions, we need to be able to go back in time and capture the very first light issued by the Universe 370,000 years after the Big Bang, or some 13.8 billion years ago. This is the challenge assumed by the Planck satellite. Between 2009 and 2013, the European Space Agency satellite collected data which has provided cosmology with the final description of the universe at both the largest and smallest scale.

© ESA - Collaboration Planck

The oldest image of the Universe

Planck is comprised of two instruments: The high frequency instrument (HFI), studied the universe in the field of lights in the far infra-red and the sub-millimetre; the Low Frequency Instrument (LFI) has observed it in the field of radio waves. Planck conducted a survey of the entire sky over a 6-month period. Maps of the whole sky with high angular resolution and in 9 frequency bands were made available to the scientific community one year after the end of the mission, giving it a vision of the entire sky at a quality never achieved before, over a domain of unknown frequencies. The large frequency range of Planck has been chosen precisely in order to optimize the separation of galactic, extra-galactic and cosmic background emissions.

Planck observed fossil radiation, the oldest image of the universe, still called cosmic microwave background. Today, with the complete analysis of the data, the quality of the resulting map is such that the footprints left by ordinary matter, black and primordial neutrinos, among others, are clearly visible.

Planck was also able to measure, with unprecedented accuracy, the content and geometry of the universe, the hot gas footprint in clusters of galaxies and large-scale gravitational lenses, strongly constrained the "inflationary" phase of first moments of the universe, specified when the first stars were formed and provided unique information on interstellar dust and magnetic fields in our Galaxy.

A magnificent reward

These two awards are a great reward for Jean-loup Puget as well as for the mission's technical and scientific teams, and in particular the HFI instrument team for which the IAS was responsible. The IAS has been very heavily involved in several aspects of Planck-HFI from the point of view of instrumentation (tests and calibrations in IAS premises, mechanical & thermal design, integration, etc.), flight operations (in the IDOC centre), processing of the data and its scientific analysis (MIC team). IAS researchers have also actively taken part in many Planck working groups.

The Shaw prizes are a series of scientific awards given which has been given by the Shaw foundation in Hong Kong every year since 2004. Often referred to as the "Asian Nobel prizes", they are accompanied by a payment of one million American dollars thanks to a philanthropic donation by Hong Kong media magnate, Run Ru Saw, who created the prize and the foundation which bears his name.  The prize rewards scientists in the fields of astronomy, biological and medical sciences and mathematics. The prize will be awarded in September 2018 in Hong Kong

The Peter-Gruber cosmology prize is an award which has been made by the Peter Gruber foundation (in) since 2000. It recognises individuals "who have contributed to fundamental advances in the field of cosmology" and "encourages the exploration of a field that influences the way we learn about and understand our universe". Its annual endowment is 500,000 dollars. It is made in partnership with the international astronomical union. The prize will be awarded on 20 August 2018 at the General Meeting of the international astronomical union in Vienna, Austria.


To find out more about the Planck mission: re-reading Planck makes us turn our heads towards the stars!