No, not the Monaco Grand Prix, but the Grand Prix for 2010 of the AAAF, the French Association for Aeronautics and Astronautics to acknowledge their “outstanding space endeavours”.
Archive for the ‘satellite’ Category
According to Time Magazine Herschel is in the top 10 best inventions of 2009 – number 7 in fact!
It would be nice if some of these awards came with money 🙂
On Wednesday this week and next week you can get an insight into the workings of a space mission. BBC radio 4 are broadcasting a two episode series called The Herschel Space Telescope about the development and launch of the satellite. Many of those responsible for Herschel and the SPIRE instrument will be featured, possibly even me.
The first show is at 11am on Wednesday 18 November, and the second show a week later. Hopefully those who miss it because they’re at work (like me!) will be able to catch it on Listen Again.
For more information see the BBC webpages for the show.
Since launch Herschel and its instruments have been going through a testing phase known as Commissioning. Essentially this means making sure everything still works after launch and making sure the whole system works as a whole. The next phase, called Performance Verification consists of much more detailed testing and calibration of the instruments to get them working at optimal performance and to establish all the calibration data needed for full scientific use.
Yesterday there was a review of all three instruments to determine their readiness to move from Commissioning Phase to Performance Verification Phase.
All three are ready to go, which places us one important step closer to real science with Herschel! I’m sure you’ll join me in congratulating the instrument teams on completing this phase successfully!
The SPIRE instrument on Herschel has got its first light images.
More news hopefully later this week once ESA can sort out a press briefing.
SPIRE took its first light images on Wednesday. The data reached the instrument team this morning and is being first assessed for quality and then will be analysed over the weekend. Then, if we’re lucky, the rest of the SPIRE team might see the image next week…
I know I can’t wait!
A bit more news of the schedule for the next few days… PACS will get to see first light today (Sunday – though the data won’t be immediately downlinked and available), while SPIRE, the UK instrument, should get its first view of the sky tomorrow.
Real data coming our way very soon!
BBC News Online has coverage of the cryocooler opening, and also news that Herschel has a starring role in the ESA pavilion at the Paris Airshow, which is opening this week.
We’ve now been told that the cryocover will be opening on Sunday, with first light data from the Herschel instruments coming down to us on Monday.
If the cryocover doesn’t open then that’s it – no science. It is what they call a ‘single point failure mode’. However, the cover’s mechanism has been extensively tested so it should work. In fact you can see a slow motion video of such a test here:
This is a test on an identical cryocover that had been kept closed for two years, and it worked perfectly. Still, some of us will be feeling quite nervous until we hear news of first light. Cross your fingers for us!
At 00hrs UT, Herschel was 1.415 million kilometres from Earth and receding at 192m/s (691km/h). Signals now take 4.5s to reach it. In terms of position in the sky, it is about 6 degrees north of the magnitude 4.6 star, 20 Ophiuchi.
You can generate up to date ephemerises at the JPL Horizons web site.
Herschel is in good shape, with its cooler reaching a temperature of 287mK when it is re-cycled. It will get even colder as we approach operational temperature. The next big event is the cryostat lid in a few days – the Herschel UK outreach site gives a nice overview of the timelines for commissioning phase, plus a nice video of the lid release mechanism at work.