rgarbacz writes "Today at 13:12 GMT, the ESA launched successfully new and long-awaiting spacecraft: Herschel, the infrared telescope with a 3.5m mirror, and Planck, the CMB mapper. The spacecraft were carried by the Ariane-5, which lifted off from Kourou in French Guiana. They will stay in L2 to perform the research. This launch is one of the most expensive and important missions of the European Space Agency. Planck will measure the CMB with an accuracy more than 10 times better than the previous mission, WMAP. Because of this high sensitivity, both spacecraft are cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero by on-board liquid helium; staying in L2 is very helpful to maintain this state. Both spacecraft are designed to observe the Universe at its infancy: Herschel by observing the first stars and galaxies (whichever came first), and Planck by scrutinizing the first photons that were set free, making up the cosmic microwave background radiation."
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