From ESA: “Celebrating Herschel’s legacy”

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ESA/Herschel spacecraft

ESA/Herschel/NASA/JPL-Caltech; acknowledgement: R. Hurt (JPL-Caltech), CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

This delicate image showing the intricacies of interstellar bubbles and wisps reveals great turmoil in the W3/W4/W5 complex of molecular clouds and star-forming regions. It was taken by ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory, a trailblazing mission that observed the sky in far-infrared and submillimetre wavelengths between 2009 and 2013.

Reservoir of cold gas in the constellation of the Southern Cross
2 October 2009

Herschel has delivered spectacular vistas of cold gas clouds lying near the plane of the Milky Way, revealing intense, unexpected activity. The dark, cool region is dotted with stellar factories, like pearls on a cosmic string.

On 3 September, Herschel aimed its telescope at a reservoir of cold gas in the constellation of the Southern Cross near the Galactic Plane. As the telescope scanned the sky, the spacecraft’s Spectral and Photometric Imaging REceiver, SPIRE, and Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer, PACS instruments snapped the pictures. The region is located about 60° from the Galactic Centre, thousands of light-years from Earth.

The five original infrared wavelengths have been colour-coded to allow scientists to differentiate extremely cold material (red) from the surrounding, slightly warmer stuff (blue).

The images reveal structure in cold material in our Galaxy, as we have never seen it before, and even before a detailed analysis, scientists have gleaned information on the quantity of the material, its mass, temperature, composition and whether it is collapsing to form new stars.

September has often been the month of memorable moments or milestones for Herschel.

When the satellite was still on Earth, it was in September 2005 that the assembled telescope passed its first tests.

September 2007 saw the mating of the mission’s ‘brain’ – the payload module with the instruments and the cryostat that would keep them at the required temperature, just above absolute zero – with its ‘heart’, or the service module, that would to keep the spacecraft going.

During the same month, scientists gathered to plan how to get the most of this extraordinary mission from the observing time that would be available.

Finally, the satellite was launched on 14 May 2009. A few months later, it was again in September that the first Herschel science observations were performed – a memorable moment for many astronomers across the world.

Eight years later, as the mission approaches retirement, ESA celebrates the marvellous science that it has achieved and takes stock of the legacy that Herschel leaves behind.

One of the areas where Herschel has made substantial contributions concerns the processes that lead to the formation of stars, surveying a large number of stellar nurseries like the W3/W4/W5 complex portrayed in this image.

Read more about Herschel’s unprecedented glimpse into the stellar cradles of our Galaxy and the giant strides that have been taken in our understanding of how stars and their planetary systems come to life.

Herschel: star formation. Click here for details and large versions of the video. Credit: ESA/Herschel/NASA/JPL-Caltech; acknowledgement: T. Pyle & R. Hurt (JPL-Caltech)

Among many other exciting findings, Herschel’s observations have also traced the trail of water across the cosmos, and pieced together the evolution of galaxies throughout 14 billion years of the Universe’s history. Follow Herschel Week to read more about these fascinating discoveries and about the legacy that the mission leaves for the future generations of telescopes.

Join ESA to celebrate Herschel Week and share your memorable #HerschelMoments

See the full article here .

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The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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