More success for Herschel

After the early sneak preview from the PACS instrument on board the recently launched Herschel infrared space telescope, more images have now been released from its other instruments, SPIRE and HIFI. The above image shows images taken with the IR imager and spectrometer SPIRE of nearby galaxy M74 at 250 micron. The amount of detail visible in the images is really great, particularly as all the image reconstruction software hasn’t even been optimised yet. We may be very used to seeing spectacularly detailed images from Hubble, but achieving these resolutions at Herschel’s far-infrared wavelengths is very new. [Read more…]

First light for Herschel

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Doesn’t it seem like yesterday, that exciting day when two new astronomy satellites were blasted into space? There was Herschel, at 3.5-m the largest telescope ever launched into space, and Planck, the new cosmic miscrowave background explorer. We cheered, drank some champagne and settled into the wait until the data started coming in. Well, that day has arrived. This week ESA and the participating institutes released an early first light image from PACS, the Photodetector and Array Camera and Spectrometer, on board Herschel, taken during the telescope’s commissioning phase.

A big congrats to the Herschel telescope and instrument teams!

Update 11/07/09: Watch a video of the Herschel/PACS team as they receive the beautiful picture of M51 from the telescope, here. Great stuff!

[Read more…]

Two more eyes in the sky

hplaunchThe launch went beautifully on Thursday, and soon astronomers will have two more eyes in the sky beaming down exciting new data. Herschel and Planck separated successfully from their ride, sent a signal back to mission control to confirm that all is well,  and are now both under way to their dark orbits at L2.

The thing with launches is that there’s a lot of excitement and build-up, but when all goes well there’s really not much to say about it. They launched, yay! Now begins the important commissioning phase (planned to begin today for Herschel, on Monday for Planck), where all the functions of the telescope and the instruments, and their performance is checked out.

So here is a round-up of some media and bloggy coverage…

Big news stories from the BBC, Guardian, Volkskrant (in Dutch)

The official launch page at ESA has also been updated with latest news and some great videos and images.

Blog updates by Stuart, Andrew, Peter, Robert, Phil – for full astro-blog listings check out Spacebuzz for tags “Herschel” and “Planck”

News on the missions’ dedicated blogs (Herschel, Planck)

Image: ESA/S. Corvaja

Herschel and Planck ready to go!

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Continuing the astro-goodness of the week, Thursday will see the launch of two major European-led astronomy space missions from ESA‘s space port in French Guiana. Hitching a ride on the same Ariane 5 rocket, space telescopes Herschel and Planck will be launched towards the L2 point on 14 May. [Read more…]

Europe's spacetastic 2009

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Herschel and Planck, snug as a bug

2009 is an exciting year for the European space community, with some high-profile launches, an astronaut recruitment programme, new launch vehicles, and, let’s not forget, a Belgian becoming the first ever European commander of the International Space Station.

Most anticipated for astronomers worldwide, however, is the launch of two major astronomy missions, Herschel and Planck. These two space telescopes are both designed to operate at the L2 Lagrangian point – a gravitationally stable point 1.5M km from Earth – and will be launched together on board an Ariane 5 on 16 April, from Korou.

[Read more…]