Science

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Winfried Rothermel/AP
Scientists work on the Herschel
observation
satellite in 2007.

Europe’s Herschel Observation Satellite Set to Launch

February 10, 2009 07:34 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
Europe’s massive Herschel observatory has been completed, and should begin offering insight into the formation of stars and galaxies when it launches into orbit later this week.

Herschel to Join Hubble

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The European Space Agency (ESA) has been working on the Herschel observatory for more than two decades, and the craft is set to become the largest “telescope mirror in space, surpassing that of the Hubble,” according to BBC News. The Herschel is named after William Herschel, an 18th Century astronomer, and will launch from Kourou, a European spaceport in South America, later this week.

Göran Pilbratt, the ESA project scientist for Herschel, told the BBC, “Very simply, the science pillars of Herschel are to understand better how stars and galaxies form and how they evolve.” The Herschel will be based 1.5 million km from the Earth.

The Herschel’s closest of kin, the Hubble Space telescope, faced an equipment breakdown last October, but is now up and running again. An overdue repair on the telescope has been delayed until May, but the Hubble continues taking stunning photographs from space.

Background: ESA and Herschel

The European Space Agency details Herschel, explaining the mission, special features, and structure of the spacecraft and telescope. Herschel’s expected journey through space is also outlined, and a fact sheet is provided.

Related Topic: Asian Space Race

The findingDulcinea feature article on the Asian Space Race discusses what countries around the world have learned from NASA’s legacy, and the function of our modern day space program. The Asian Space Race is covered in detail, along with Eurocentrics in space and space tourism.

In September 2008, Chinese astronauts arrived home safely after a trip into orbit that included a spacewalk—the country’s first. And in October 2008, India celebrated its first mission to the moon, marking the success of its space program and the continuation of the Asian space race.

Key Players: Edwin Hubble

In the PBS film “Seeing in the Dark” by Timothy Ferris, prominent astrologers Edward Emerson Barnard and William Herschel are featured. Herschel was “the first human being in recorded history to discover a planet.” However, he was a “self-taught” astronomer who was also a professional composer and musician. Herschel played, conducted and taught music in England, where he escaped to after fleeing his native Germany, according to PBS.

FindingDulcinea’s Happy Birthday, Edwin Hubble feature article discusses the childhood, major accomplishments and lasting influences of the prolific astronomer.
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