Feeds

Euro space 'scopes go for 14 May launch

Herschel and Planck set to probe universe

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The European Space Agency's Herschel and Planck space telescopes are set to blast off on 14 May atop an Ariane 5 ECA launcher from French Guiana, the agency reports.

The 'scopes are destined for "L2", the second Lagrangian point of the Sun-Earth system lying around 1.5m km from Earth. ESA explains that this is one of five locations discovered by Joseph Louis Lagrange "where all the gravitational forces acting between two objects cancel each other out and therefore can be used by spacecraft to 'hover'".

Described as a "great place from which to observe the larger universe", L2 provides a "stable viewpoint" free from the need to orbit the Earth, and therefore pass through its shadow, as well as lying beyond the reach of our planet's radiated heat.

Artist's impression of Herschel. Pic: ESAThe latter will prove important in the case of Herschel (see pic), the largest infrared telescope ever put into space and boasting a 3.5 m diameter primary mirror.

Herschel will for the first time probe the "entire range from far-infrared to sub-millimetre wavelengths and bridge the two", enabling scientists to study "otherwise invisible dusty and cold regions of the cosmos, both near and far".

To do this, the 3.4 tonne Herschel is carrying a high-resolution spectrometer dubbed the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI) plus a pair of cameras/imaging spectrometers: the Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) and the Spectral and Photometric Imaging REceiver (SPIRE). The instruments (further details here) are cooled to near ablsolute zero by a helium cryogenic system, and powered by around 12m2 of solar arrays.

The spacecraft's main objective during its slated three-and-a-half year mission is to discover "how the first galaxies formed and how they evolved to give rise to present day galaxies like our own". Scientists also hope it will give insights into "clouds of gas and dust where new stars are being born, disks out of which planets may form and cometary atmospheres packed with complex organic molecules".

Artist's impression of Planck; Pic: ESAPlanck, meanwhile, is tasked with studying the Cosmic Microwave Background "with the highest accuracy ever achieved".

The 1.9 tonne vessel's instrument payload consists of telescope and twin radio detector arrays. The 'scope uses an "off-axis tilted Gregorian system" with a primary 1.9 × 1.5 m, mirror (effective aperture 1.5m) to feed the Low Frequency Instrument (LFI) detector tuned to the 27 to 77 GHz frequency range and the High Frequency Instrument operating in the 84 GHz to 1 THz range (more details here).

ESA summarises: "These receivers will determine the black body equivalent temperature of the background radiation and will be capable of distinguishing temperature variations of about one microkelvin. These measurements will be used to produce the best ever maps of anisotropies [small fluctuations in the temperature across the sky] in the CMB radiation field."

Planck has a nominal life of 15 months following its "Calibration and Performance Verification Phase". It will arrive at L2 around six weeks after launch, while Herschel - travelling independently - is expected to reach its destination after roughly 100 days. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?