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More success for Herschel July 11, 2009

Posted by Sarah in new astronomy, pics, science, space.
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After the early sneak preview from the PACS instrument on board the recently launched Herschel infrared space telescope, more images have now been released from its other instruments, SPIRE and HIFI. The above image shows images taken with the IR imager and spectrometer SPIRE of nearby galaxy M74 at 250 micron. The amount of detail visible in the images is really great, particularly as all the image reconstruction software hasn’t even been optimised yet. We may be very used to seeing spectacularly detailed images from Hubble, but achieving these resolutions at Herschel’s far-infrared wavelengths is very new. (more…)

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First light for Herschel June 21, 2009

Posted by Sarah in new astronomy, science, space.
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M51_final_color

Doesn’t it seem like yesterday, that exciting day when two new astronomy satellites were blasted into space? There was Herschel, at 3.5-m the largest telescope ever launched into space, and Planck, the new cosmic miscrowave background explorer. We cheered, drank some champagne and settled into the wait until the data started coming in. Well, that day has arrived. This week ESA and the participating institutes released an early first light image from PACS, the Photodetector and Array Camera and Spectrometer, on board Herschel, taken during the telescope’s commissioning phase.

A big congrats to the Herschel telescope and instrument teams!

Update 11/07/09: Watch a video of the Herschel/PACS team as they receive the beautiful picture of M51 from the telescope, here. Great stuff!

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Big Picture homage to MESSENGER June 12, 2009

Posted by Sarah in pics, science, space.
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MESSENGER launches

The wonderful Big Picture series at the Boston Globe devoted a photo series this week to the MESSENGER probe and the fantastic images it has sent us from the tiny enigmatic planet Mercury.

Hop on over there and take a look!

Image: NASA

Waxing lyrical about exoplanets May 28, 2009

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This year we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first published astronomical observations with a telescope, by Galileo Galilei. Galilei used his telescope to observe the changing phases of Venus and reveal the true configuration of the Solar System. Now, exactly four centuries later, CoRoT observations have shown the changing phases of an extrasolar planet for the first time in optical light.

Blimey, is that a Nature-worthy cheesy quote or what?! And …. that’s exactly what it is*. (more…)

Welcome back Atlantis, good luck Frank! May 26, 2009

Posted by Sarah in belgium, science, space.
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atlantis_landing

Welcome back Atlantis

After a fascinating 13-day mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, Space Shuttle Atlantis and its crew touched down safely at Edwards Air Force Base on Sunday 24 May. Welcome home Atlantis! The mission to repair and upgrade Hubble was closely followed by space and astronomy enthusiasts around the world (yup that includes me), thanks to the great coverage on NASA TV.

A welcoming ceremony is taking place today at 4 pm Central Time, watch it live here.

I’m delighted the astronauts got the job done and Hubble is ready for its final stint. Unfortunately I had to miss the landing as I was on a little jaunt around Britain to attend some meetings and catch up with friends and family.

Great also to have Mike Massimino back on live twitter, telling us all about the weirdness of being back on Earth.

Good luck Frank!

Frank-De-WinneThree astronauts will take off from the Baikonur cosmodrome tomorrow for the International Space Station. Representing the European Space Agency is Belgian Frank De Winne, who will also become the first European commander of the ISS during his 6-month stay. Good luck Frank!

Read more about the mission here. Watch a Q&A session with him on ESA’s YouTube channel here.

Image: G. Blevins/LA Daily News