Herschel,the largest space telescope ever built,would explore the depths of the Universe,once it launches into orbit aboard the latest ESA (European Space Agency) mission on May 14th. In 1.5 million kilometers distance from Earth,the space probe will orbit the Sun for 3 and a half years.
With its three instruments,it will especially detect and analyze infrared radiation,which contains information on a wide range of phenomena in the Universe,like the evolution of distant galaxies and the existence of water in our solar system. The Universe reveals many of its secrets in the infrared.
Just like every object on Earth,the icy nebulae,galaxies and stars from the depths of the Universe emit infrared heat radiation. The Earths atmosphere is impervious to these wavelengths. The instruments aboard the Herschel space probe investigate space in the wavelength range between 55 and 672 micrometers.
No other infrared observatory so far has offered such a bandwidth in combination with the spatial resolution of a 3.5-meter telescope. For the first time,the scientists are able to resolve the cosmic infrared background into its individual sources and thus to determine the development of the Universe. The evolution of stars and galaxies,the formation of planetary systems,the history of our own solar system and the chemical composition of molecular clouds,stars and galaxies are the most important topics on which Herschel will provide information.
With the start of this space telescope a dream comes true for which we have worked hard for more than ten years,said Eckhard Sturm from Max Planck Institute (MPE). With Herschel,we will resolve the cosmic infrared background into individual galaxies and so be able to study the most active stage of star formation in the history of the Universe, said Dieter Lutz,Sturms colleague. Herschel also opens up new opportunities for our understanding of the trans-Neptunian region – remains of the disc from which our planets formed.