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Herschel closes its eyes on the Universe

herschel esa helium infrared astronomy

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#1    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 04:01 PM

Herschel closes its eyes on the Universe


www.esa.int said:

17 April 2013 ESA’s Herschel space observatory has exhausted its supply of liquid helium coolant, ending more than three years of pioneering observations of the cool Universe.

The event was not unexpected: the mission began with over 2300 litres of liquid helium, which has been slowly evaporating since the final top-up the day before Herschel’s launch on 14 May 2009.

The liquid helium was essential to cool the observatory’s instruments to close to absolute zero, allowing Herschel to make highly sensitive observations of the cold Universe until today.

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#2    stevewinn

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 06:56 PM

so what now for Herschel? does it just stay in orbit?

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#3    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 08:05 PM

View Poststevewinn, on 29 April 2013 - 06:56 PM, said:

so what now for Herschel? does it just stay in orbit?

It's not actually in an Earth orbit, it is orbiting the L2 Lagrangian point, more than a million Km from Earth. As such it is too far away to order it to re-enter the atmosphere and burn up. Instead it will be sent out of it's L2 orbit into an orbit around the Sun so that it will be a potential hazard to other missions using the L2 point.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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Also tagged with herschel, esa, helium, infrared astronomy

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