THE MOMENT: The European Space Agency’s Planck spacecraft gets a thorough cleaning—including vacuuming and an ultraviolet inspection to check for dust particles—near Kourou, French Guiana, before its launch last May 14. In August the craft’s telescope and detectors began the most detailed study ever made of the cosmic microwave background radiation, the remnant energy from the Big Bang. First results should come out next year. Planck will also hunt for gravitational waves and will help astronomers investigate dark matter, dark energy, and the expansion of the early universe.
THE SHOT: Photo by ESA using a Nikon D300 camera, f/4.0, ISO 3200.