Herschel, ESA’s cutting-edge space observatory, carries the largest,
most powerful infrared telescope ever flown in space. A pioneering
mission, Professors Martha Haynes and Don Campbell are using it to study the origin and evolution of stars and galaxies
to help understand how the Universe came to be the way it is today.
The first observatory to cover the entire range from far-infrared to submillimetre wavelengths and bridge the two, Herschel is exploring further into the far-infrared than any previous mission, studying otherwise invisible dusty and cold regions of the cosmos, both near and far.
By tapping these unexploited wavelengths, Herschel is seeing phenomena beyond the reach of other observatories, and studying others at a level of detail that has not been captured before. The telescope’s primary mirror is 3.5 m in diameter, more than four times larger than any previous infrared space telescope and almost one and a half times larger than that of the Hubble Space Telescope. Its size is allowing Herschel to collect almost 20 times more light than any previous infrared space telescope.
The spacecraft carries three advanced science instruments: two cameras and a very high-resolution spectrometer. The detectors in these instruments are cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero by a sophisticated cryogenic system.