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Herschel Space Telescope Opens Eyes July 10, 2009

Posted by CGR Section Chair in : Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASTRO), Cosmology, Gravitation, and Relativity (CGR) , add a comment

The newest addition to the space telescope crew is the Herschel, which is designed, deployed and run by the European Space Agency. Herschel, which can see in the infrared, is joining our much-beloved Hubble (which observes in the visible) and Spitzer (which can see in the infrared). After a month of preparation in space, Herschel opened its eyes in June. Today a sneak preview of the images it will be taking was released:

You’ll notice that the image on the left is from Spitzer. Thanks to the hard work of optical engineers and atomic and condensed matter physicists, technology is improving, and the higher quality image from Herschel is the result. We here at Vector say to Herschel: Welcome! And to its hard working team: Thank you 🙂

But improved technology isn’t the only exciting element of Herschel’s release into the wild. Herschel is also the first major telescope to be named for a female astronomer. It is named for Caroline and William Herschel, the award-winning brother-sister team who lived in 18th and 19th century Germany and England. As time goes on, we hope to see more and more recognition of the contributions of people traditionally underrepresented in science. Kudos to ESA for making strides in this area.