Feeds

Herschel space 'scope flips its lid

Pops lens cap, first observations follow

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The European Space Agency has successfully commanded the Herschel space telescope to open the protective cover protecting its instruments, meaning scientists can get down to the task of observing the universe in far infrared and sub-millimetre wavelengths.

In a department of the bleedin' obvious moment, the team behind Herschel's Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE), described this as a "vital step" because if the lid hadn't popped (see demonstration vid), the 'scope "would never be able to make any observations because the instruments would not be able to see the sky".

SPIRE's principal investigator, professor Matt Griffin, explained: "A command was transmitted to the Herschel spacecraft to execute this critical operation. Herschel is so far away that actually it took over five seconds to reach the spacecraft. The cover then opened exactly as planned.

"Two small pyrotechnic charges were fired and the cover sprang back, opening the window and allowing the light collected by the Herschel telescope to get in to the instruments. Now we can make our first observations with Herschel."

Artist's impression of Herschel. Pic: ESAHerschel will later this week make trial observations of Neptune and the Helix Nebula: "a bright cloud of luminous material formed at the end of a star's evolution". Scientists will then test the spacecraft's pointing system.

Herschel launched on 14 may from the ESA spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, accompanied by the Planck telescope. The latter is dedicated to "the study of relic radiation from the Big Bang", sniffing the Cosmic Microwave Background "with the highest accuracy ever achieved".

The former has a list of tasks including to probe the "formation of galaxies in the early universe and their subsequent evolution", "investigate the creation of stars and their interaction with the interstellar medium" and "examine the molecular chemistry of the universe".

To do this, it boasts a a 3.5 m diameter primary mirror feeding 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 aforementioned SPIRE. There's more on the instruments here.

Both 'scopes will operate from orbits around "L2", the second Lagrangian point of the Sun-Earth system lying around 1.5 million km from Earth. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
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.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.