Where I’ve been

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As you can tell, things on this blog have been rather quiet of late. This is because of two factors.

Firstly the SPIRE team is deep into the Performance Verification phase of the mission. This is utterly essential for the calibration, tuning and optimization of the instrument before science operations start in October, but it doesn’t produce interesting science results that we can show you. Please bear with us during this phase. Once the science demonstration phase results start being released later this year we’ll have plenty of new stuff to report.

Secondly, I’ve been on holiday. It’s been a sort of working holiday as I’ve been at the World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal. I’ve been coordinating the science programme for this worldcon for the last couple of years, and I have to say that things have gone really rather well. Amongst other personal highlights for me was a talk I gave on Herschel and another series of small talks that I and my co-panelists gave on recent developments in astronomy. I was very impressed to hear what the Chandra X-ray satellite has been doing over the last decade on this panel – while I’ve used Chandra myself, I’m not an x-ray astronomer so haven’t seen all the great things it’s been doing.

You can get some idea of what was going on more broadly at the convention from the programme guide. There was a lot going on!

I also did a reading of my story from Footprints and got confirmation that my story in Analog will be coming out in the January/February double issue.

Noe I have a few days in montreal to recover from the con, then it’s back home for more work on Herschel!

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2 Responses to “Where I’ve been”

  1. geert Says:

    Is there more news on HiFi?

    I found this in the dutch press today.

    Some sad news today, the spectrometer HIFI aboard the Herschel Space Telescope that was launched in May is broken. The cause is unknown, and the Space Telescope is too far away, 1.5 million kilometers, to be repaired. The two other main instruments still function. There is a spare on board, and ESA is now investigating whether that can be used safely, without impairing the other two instruments.
    Hopefully in two weeks Herchel can continue to search for water in areas where new stars and planets are born.

    • Dave Says:

      Things aren’t as bad as the report you’re quoting suggests. There are some problems with some of the electronics on HIFI. This doesn’t kill the instrument and there are redundant components that can be switched on to take the place of the ones causing problems. Investigations to understand this are underway and can be followed on the ESA Herschel news pages here:

      http://herschel.esac.esa.int/operations_log.shtml

      The bottom line though is that stories of HIFI’s death have been exaggerated. Problems like this happen on space missions, and these eventualities are planned for. The redundant electronics can be used if the current problem can’t be sorted so there is a very good chance that HIFI will fulfill its considerable promise in the end.

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