Herschel Space Observatory

(redirected from Herschel (Space Observatory))

Herschel Space Observatory

A spaceborne infrared and submillimeter imaging photometry and spectroscopy facility scheduled to be launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) in early 2007. It will enter space aboard the same launch vehicle, an Ariane-5 rocket, as the Planck mission. The observatory (known as Herschel for short) takes its name from the German-born English astronomer of the late 18th and early 19th century, Sir William Herschel. Originally designated the Far InfraRed and Submillimeter Telescope (FIRST), it is one of the cornerstones of ESA's science program. Its purpose is to observe the ‘cool’ universe, operating in the far infrared and submillimeter region of the spectrum over an approximate range of 57–670 μm. Functioning at these wavelengths, it will have the potential to look back into the Universe's remote past, discovering the earliest epoch proto-galaxies, revealing cosmologically evolving AGN/starburst symbiosis, and unraveling the mechanisms governing the formation of stars and planetary systems. Herschel will carry a 3.5-m-diameter passively cooled telescope. The science instruments – two cameras/medium resolution spectrometers and a very high resolution heterodyne spectrometer – will be housed in a superfluid helium cryostat. From its eventual observing position far out in space in orbit around L2, one of the Lagrangian points of the Sun–Earth system situated 1.5 million km from the Earth, Herschel will be able to benefit from a low and stable background and full access to the frequency range in which it is to work.
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