Planck team awarded prestigious prize

The ESA Planck team has been honoured with the 2018 Gruber Cosmology Prize for its mission mapping the cosmic microwave background – relic radiation from the Big Bang that is still observable today.

The annual prize is awarded by the Gruber Foundation, based at Yale University in the United States, and recognises “individuals whose research inspires and enables fundamental shifts in knowledge and culture”.

The team and members Nazzareno Mandolesi and Jean-Loup Puget, leaders of the low frequency and high frequency instrument consortia, respectively, join a prestigious list of winners covering some of the most exciting developments in cosmology since the turn of the 21st century.

The mission provided the most detailed map ever created of the cosmic microwave background, enabling scientists to study the Universe’s 13.8 billion year history in greater detail than ever before. These observations helped to further explore some of the theories investigated by fellow prizewinners, including the ‘inflationary’ expansion that took place in the first moments of the Universe.


Cosmic microwave background seen by Planck


“We are very excited and proud about the award of this distinguished prize,” said ESA Director of Science, Günther Hasinger.

“The ESA Planck mission has made truly fundamental contributions to our understanding of modern cosmology. It is my great pleasure to congratulate and thank the many hundreds of scientists and engineers, who have made this excellent success possible,” he added.

“My late husband, Peter Gruber, and I established an international prize programme in 2000 to honour and encourage outstanding individuals in the sciences and human rights,” said Patricia Gruber, co-founder of the Gruber Foundation. “My husband would likely have been as delighted as I am today to see the continuing vitality of the sciences in the 2018 Gruber Prize recipients.”

The foundation also gives awards in genetics and neuroscience; each prize consists of a gold medal and US $500 000 (approximately €421 500).

It is the second major prize for the Planck team this year, as they were also honoured by the Royal Astronomical Society in January.