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Space Science

For ESA's Herschel Mission, the End Is Near 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the winding-down-after-good-service dept.
Trapezium Artist writes "The European Space Agency's far-infrared space observatory, Herschel, will soon run out of its liquid helium coolant, ending observations after more than three years of highly successful scientific operations. Predictions by ESA engineers are that Herschel will run out of helium later in March, at which point its instruments will warm up, rendering them effectively blind. Herschel was launched in 2009 along with ESA's Planck satellite to the Sun-Earth L2 point, roughly 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. At that location, the Sun and Earth remain along a more or less constant vector with respect to a spacecraft, meaning that it can cool to very low temperatures behind a sunshield. At such a large distance from Earth, however, there is no way of replenishing the coolant, and Herschel will be pushed off the L2 point to spend its retirement in a normal heliocentric orbit. With the largest monolithic mirror ever flown in space at 3.5 meters diameter and three powerful scientific instruments, Herschel has made exciting discoveries about the cool Universe, ranging from dusty starburst galaxies at high redshifts to star-forming regions spread throughout the Milky Way and proto-planetary disks of gas and dust swirling around nearby young stars. And with an archive full of data, much of it already public, Herschel is set to produce new results for years to come."
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For ESA's Herschel Mission, the End Is Near

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  • Re:so.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by game kid (805301) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @04:06AM (#43090023) Homepage

    Herschel probably won't be able to gather new sights and data once blind, so any "new results" would come from further examination of what it has already seen.

    Scientific instruments these days tend to generate more data than can be quickly processed, so there's probably a lot of images that still haven't been more than glanced at...and if scientists decide to take a second look at what they've already pored over, they can uncover some fun new objects with strange parallax or whatever.

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