Herschel Space Observatory
Herschel • Missions & Center • Operational
Launched in May 2009, the Herschel Space Observatory is the European Space Agency's fourth "Cornerstone Mission". The 3.5 meter telescope performs photometry and spectroscopy in approximately the 55-672 micron range.
Herschel has been designed to unveil a face of the early Universe that has remained hidden until now. Thanks to its ability to detect radiation at far infrared and sub-millimeter wavelengths, Herschel observes dust obscured and cold objects that are invisible to other telescopes. Herschel's major objective will be discovering how the first galaxies formed and how they evolved to give rise to present day galaxies like our own. Additional targets for Herschel will include clouds of gas and dust where new stars are being born, disks out of which planets may form and cometary atmospheres packed with complex organic molecules.
Herschel continues to operate until its cryogen coolant runs out. This is expected to happen in March 2013, making this a 3.8 year mission. After that time, the NASA Herschel Science Center will continue to provide help to observers and archival users in the Post-operations phase of the mission.
NASA is a partner in the Herschel mission, with US participants contributing to the mission; providing mission-enabling instrument technology and sponsoring the NASA Herschel Science Center (NHSC) at IPAC. The NHSC is established to provide the US astronomical community with science and observational support throughout all phases of the Herschel mission.