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Space Science

Successful Launch of ESA's Herschel and Planck 121

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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Successful Launch of ESA's Herschel and Planck

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  • by Leafheart ( 1120885 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:51AM (#27951943)

    Between this and the fix ongoing on Hubble, where are set for some more time of great and impressive astronomy. Thank you NASA and ESA for keeping the good work.

    Any one have any idea how they will keep the helium going on it? I tried on the articles but couldn't find the longevity and repair plans.

  • by yogibaer ( 757010 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:16PM (#27952283)
    First emotion: Wow! Far out: L2 is 1.5 million km from Earth beyond the orbit of the moon ( so no space shuttle service missions here... ). But before I looked it up I had completely forgotten that Mars is at best still another 53 million km and then imagining the billions of lightyears Herschel will be able to "see"... I have to buy another ticket for "Star Trek" to lose this image of an invisibly tiny blue spec in a black void in my head...
  • Happy launching (Score:4, Interesting)

    by KasperMeerts ( 1305097 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:18PM (#27952321)

    It's really awesome this thing launched succesfully. My professor of astronomy and his department worked ten years on Herschel. I'm really happy for him.

    I hope the sattelite gives us a lot of useful information or at least some beautiful pictures

  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:20PM (#27952341) Journal
    After the helium supplies have evaporated,

    I realize we, as in all space agencies, use helium or something else to keep these instruments cold, but why can't we use the coldness of space to do the same thing? Isn't there some way to use one or more of the three forms of heat transfer to keep the instruments cold enough to work without having to rely on a limited source of helium?
  • Re:FFS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rgarbacz ( 1450155 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:22PM (#27952373)
    I am grateful for the correction, and I am sorry for the mistake. English is not my native language. And please do not contribute this error to ESA - I do not work for this agency, I am just a space exploration enthusiast.
  • by joelsherrill ( 132624 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:38PM (#27952613) Homepage
    As maintainer of RTEMS [], I am very proud that both spacecraft are running our free real-time operating system on at least the Spacecraft Management Unit (SMU). These are both important missions which promise to provide us with new insights.
  • Re:Blame rgarbacz (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pwfffff ( 1517213 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:35PM (#27954181)

    "(which is very cold, about 270C, near absolute zero)"

    I think you dropped this: -

  • Herschel and Planck? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cwiegmann24 ( 1476667 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @03:06PM (#27954779)
    I understand that they're named after some famous scientists, but how are these names any better or more notable than Colbert? It's not like I'm going to remember Sir William Herschel and Max Planck any better because they have a spacecraft named after them. I had to look both up cause I didn't know who they were.
  • Which L2? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @03:19PM (#27955021) Journal
    Which L2? There are several. The convention is to express it with the initial of the Large body, then the initial of the small body: eg the Sun-Earth L2 would be SEL2; the Earth Moon would be EML2. I'm guessing this would be SEL2 so that the Earth blocks out a lot of the radiation from the Sun. Anyone know if SEL2 is within the umbra of the Earth's shadow?
  • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Friday May 15, 2009 @01:28AM (#27962063)

    Well, you can with a fridge, which basically pumps the heat out of a confined space and heats the radiator grille on tha back, and you could in principle do the same for a satelite - in fact, I am pretty sure they do something similar to that in order to make the helium last for that long. But helium is pretty difficult to hold on to, it tends to leak out through any pressure seals, because it is comes as single atoms which are much smaller than even the two-atom molecules of hydrogen. And of course a cooling compressor, being a mechanical device, has parts that wear out and seals that get leakier over time.

  • Re:SuperAccurate (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TorKlingberg ( 599697 ) on Friday May 15, 2009 @06:19AM (#27963663)

    Probably waiting for Herschel to be finished so they could launched together.

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