Herschel is going to be an amazingly successful mission – what I’ve seen of early data confirms that – but it is not going to be the final word in far-IR and submm astronomy. We’re already planning the next satellite, SPICA, and the next generation ground-based submm camera, SCUBA2, is just being commissioned. The biggest ground-based project in this area, though, is ALMA – the Atacama Large Millimetre Array. This consists of an array of 66 dishes on the high plain of the Andes at Chagnantor, and will give submm astronomers the kind of angular resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope, and sensitivities we can only dream of at the moment.
ALMA is being put together by a combination of European, US and Japanese research organisations. Usually, in such combined projects, the US seems to get all the credit in the media – did you know, for example, that Hubble is a joint NASA-ESA mission? I was thus rather amused to see the latest report on ALMA in Wired to describe it as a European Southern Observatory project. But aside from the sociological aspects the article is interesting and has some great photos of the telescope moving vehicle!