Spacey Monday: A New Frontier
July 13, 2009 by scienceguy288
The European Space Agency just released the first light images from the Herschel Space Observatory. These images prove the power of the observatory, especially as the fine-tuning of the device is not finished.
Herschel Space Telescope
Herschel is sensitive to light at long wavelengths – in the far-infrared and sub-millimetre range. Thus, these images do not obtain the amazing images taken by Hubble, etc (such telescopes take images at shorter wavelengths). However, they do capture bodies not seen by short wavelength telescopes.
The first images captured depict M74 and M66, two spiral galaxies located 24 and 36 million light years (respectively) from earth. Now, whereas Hubble sees the stars in the area, Herschel sees the dusty clouds of gas that give rise to stars. What Herschel sees in the galaxies is not their stars, but the dusty clouds of gas that give rise to stars.
After this “stellar” (pun intended) test performance, they observatory will begin to work at peak performance levels.
The Cosmic Perspective
Telescopes allow the lay person to gain access to the wonders of the heavens, something which we don’t often get to see.I love telescopes. Many moons ago, when I was younger, I would go star-watching with my bare eyes and then binoculars. When my family got our first telescope I fell in love with the wonders of space. I would look through it as much as I possibly could. I saw the rings on Jupiter, several Perseid meteor showers, a lunar eclipse, and many other cosmological events. The high tech observatories being launched in this day in age allow everyone: scientists, and normal dudes walking down the street, to see even deeper than we have ever seen before. Star dust, new nebulae, and galaxies are constantly being discovered. Who knows what we will find next in this vast new frontier.