The European Space Agency has formally retired the Herschel space telescope after nearly four years of operation, and has placed it in a parking orbit that will keep it out of Earth's way. Herschel's at rest at last Herschel's at rest at last Hershcel, along with the Planck space telescope, was launched on May 14, 2009, and …
Thanks for the pics, Herschel!!
That's all I have to say. Great project, its a shame we didn't have a way to send it into orbit with more coolant aboard.
More than worth it
^ That about sums it up for me.
A job well done!
Nice to mark the passing of this important observatory -- thanks!
Minor note: since the Earth-Sun L2 point is actually on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun, it's not technically "between the Earth and the Sun."
"Hopefully by then we'll have the space-faring capability to retrieve it and bring it home to take its well-earned place in a museum or suitable institute of learning."
I wish we could do that for Hubble, it's going to wind up a molten streak across some ocean floor. Not a very diginified way to go for something that has expanded out horizon so immensely.
Spelling check required.
'Meter' too, although a spell checker wouldn't spot the error.
It's a shame there wasn't another instrument on board that could make use of that ginormous mirror now the primary mission is complete.
Re: Dual use
It's a fair point, but it's one that was considered. Essentially, big as a 3.5m mirror is, it isn't *that* big. With the dawn of mega-scale distributed telescopes and interferometry here on terra firma, an uncooled 3.5m instrument wouldn't actually be of much use, even with the advantage of being in space. You'd end up in the situation where you'd compromise the lifespan or the capabilities of the primary mission for a secondary mission that could well be obsolete before it even came online. Even if the far infrared performance of ground-based telescopes doesn't come up to what we might hope for, you'd end up with a poor man's JWST.
When they designed Herschel they basically went "Right, so, Ariane 5's about 5 metres across, lose a bit over a metre for the heatshield, then let's fill the rest up with the BIGGEST MIRROR and BIGGEST TANK OF HELIUM we can build" - more instruments or less helium would've compromised that.
Re: Duel use
Space Telescopes at dawn?
Re: Dual use
It's the biggest mirror outside the atmosphere by a long way, as far as I can recall which gives it an advantage in the infra-red imaging spectrum, and it actually got built and launched and used. The JWST seems to have grown roots and its launch and commissioning is receding deep into the future almost as fast as the universe is expanding...
I'm envisaging the Herschel could have carried an additional lower-resolution detector operating in the near IR, cooled by a heat-pump and used for recording time-series IR data of dynamic changes in nebulae etc. over a period of years or even (if the money and hardware held out) decades. The Hubble has been kept running for nearly thirty years now after a lot of teething-trouble TLC and it still has a few more years left under the hood so I'd expect the Herschel's "bus" with its more modern hardware to be able to match that to support an extended scientific program if the detectors were available.
 I think there's a radiotelescope satellite that's got a bigger collecting dish but it's not optical.
Nothing beats ...
Hubble for ROI, reliability, years of service!
And great pictures.
Re: Nothing beats ...
Don't forget one of the coolest space repair missions so far - Hubble wasn't too good before that - afterwards was a different matter.
Science is awesome!
For those that don't 'get' science:
At the very minimum, look at the amazing images and start thinking.
A premature death?
I looked in the article to find if it was a premature death but couldn't see that info.
According to Wikipedia it had a life expectancy of 3.5 years so survived over 10% longer than anticipated.
Well done NASA.
Re: A premature death?
Er... It's ESA we need to thank actually.
Re: A premature death?
"Er... It's ESA we need to thank actually."
I think I see the problem here, you're not an American, are you?
Oops sorry ESA!
Sorry my excuse is I wasn't paying attention and I'd looked up 'Lagrangian points' which the Herschel uses and ended up at NASA:
Very interesting and understandable article. I'm in the UK so don't blame our American cousins this time!
Anyway congratulations ESA.
Time for a space refuelling station...
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