Herschel's daring test: A glimpse of things to come

June 19, 2009
Red, green and blue correspond to the 160-micron, 100-micron and 70-micron wavelength bands of the Herschel’s Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer, PACS. Glowing light from clouds of dust and gas around and between the stars is visible clearly. These clouds are a reservoir of raw material for ongoing star formation in this galaxy. Blue indicates regions of warm dust that is heated by young stars, while the colder dust shows up in red. Credit: ESA and the PACS Consortium

Herschel opened its 'eyes' on 14 June and the Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer obtained images of M51, 'the whirlpool galaxy' for a first test observation. Scientists obtained images in three colours from the observation, which clearly demonstrate the superiority of Herschel, the largest infrared space telescope ever flown.

This image shows the famous 'whirlpool galaxy', first observed by Charles Messier in 1773, who provided the designation Messier 51 (M51). This lies relatively nearby, about 35 million light-years away, in the constellation Canes Venatici. M51 was the first galaxy discovered to harbour a spiral structure.

The image is a composite of three observations taken at 70, 100 and 160 microns, taken by Herschel's Photoconductor Array Camera and (PACS) on 14 and 15 June, immediately after the satellite's cryocover was opened on 14 June.

Herschel, launched only a month ago, is still being commissioned and the first images from its instruments were planned to arrive only in a few weeks. But engineers and scientists were challenged to try to plan and execute daring test observations as part of a 'sneak preview' immediately after the cryocover was opened. The objective was to produce a very early image that gives a glimpse of things to come.

The obvious advantage of the larger size of the telescope is clearly reflected in the much higher resolution of the images: Herschel reveals structures that cannot be discerned in a Spitzer image of M51.

These images clearly demonstrate that the shorter the , the sharper the image — this is a very important message about the quality of Herschel's optics, since PACS observes at Herschel's shortest wavelengths.

Produced from the very first test observation, these images lead scientists to conclude that the optical performance of Herschel and its large telescope is so far meeting their high expectations.

Source: (news : web)

Explore further: Reaching the parts -- with Herschel and SPIRE

Related Stories

Reaching the parts -- with Herschel and SPIRE

April 3, 2007

A UK-led instrument which will study a previously unexplored part of the Universe leaves the UK this week to be installed on the European Space Agency's Herschel spacecraft in Germany.

Recommended for you

Earth might have hairy dark matter

November 23, 2015

The solar system might be a lot hairier than we thought. A new study publishing this week in the Astrophysical Journal by Gary Prézeau of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, proposes the existence of ...

The hottest white dwarf in the Galaxy

November 25, 2015

Astronomers at the Universities of Tübingen and Potsdam have identified the hottest white dwarf ever discovered in our Galaxy. With a temperature of 250,000 degrees Celsius, this dying star at the outskirts of the Milky ...

Scientists detect stellar streams around Magellanic Clouds

November 23, 2015

(Phys.org)—Astronomers from the University of Cambridge, U.K., have detected a number of narrow streams and diffuse debris clouds around two nearby irregular dwarf galaxies called the Magellanic Clouds. The research also ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2 / 5 (4) Jun 20, 2009

The color codes suggest a great deal of diversity in the material around and between the stars.

It may be an over-interpretation to say, "Blue indicates regions of warm dust that is heated by young stars."

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel

2 / 5 (4) Jun 21, 2009

a.) Primordial He is linked with excess Xe-136 in stone meteorites:
See: "The enigma of helium and anomalous xenon," Icarus 41 (1980) 312-315 http://tinyurl.com/nu82de ; doi:10.1016/0019-1035(80)90014-7

b.) Nucleogenetic isotopic anomalies in Mo isotopes of iron meteorites: See: http://tinyurl.com/mwsevr

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.