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Europe's 'Big Bang' observatory completes cosmic survey

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Artist's impression of the Planck spacecraft. An ESA photo

PARIS (AFP): A 900-million dollar orbital observatory has completed the biggest-ever search for remnants of the "Big Bang" that created the Universe, the European Space Agency said Monday.

The main instrument on the Planck observatory failed on Saturday when -- as expected -- it ran out of coolant, ending a mission that had lasted twice its 15-month operational design, ESA said in a press release.

"Planck has been a wonderful mission; spacecraft and instruments have been performing outstandingly well, creating a treasure trove of scientific data for us to work with," Jan Tauber, the agency's chief scientist for the Planck project, said.

Planck is designed to pick up tiny variations in temperature in microwave energy that was released after the Big Bang some 14 billion years ago.

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