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Herschel lives up to the family name

The Herschel Space Observatory has been observing the sky at infrared wavelengths since shortly after its launch two years ago, on 14th May 2009. But the name Herschel has a much longer legacy than that. The observatory is named after Sir William Herschel, a leading astronomer, for discovering infrared light around two hundred years ago. The Herschel family was a particularly astronomical one, with both his sister, Caroline, and son, John, playing important roles in the history of astronomy.
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The Herschel Space Observatory is a European Space Agency space observatory sensitive to the far infrared and submillimetre wavebands.
The observatory was carried into orbit on the 14th  May 2009, reaching the second Lagrangian point (L2) of the Earth-Sun system, 1,500,000 kilometres from the Earth, about two months later.

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Herschel to be refilled with Helium

Artist's impression of Herschel docked to the International Space Station.

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Herschel looks back in time to see today's stars bursting into life

A UK-led international team of astronomers have presented the first conclusive evidence for a dramatic surge in star birth in a newly discovered population of massive galaxies in the early Universe. Their measurements confirm the idea that stars formed most rapidly about 11 billion years ago, or about three billion years after the Big Bang, and that the rate of star formation is much faster than was thought.
The scientists used the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory, an infrared telescope carrying the largest mirror ever launched into space. They studied the distant objects in detail with the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE) camera, obtaining solid evidence that the galaxies are forming stars at a tremendous rate and have large reservoirs of gas that will power the star formation for hundreds of millions of years. Their observations also confirm that these galaxies represent a crucial episode in the build up of large galaxies around us today, such as our own Milky Way.

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Herschel-ATLAS survey
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Close up on hidden galaxies with new cosmic zoom lenses

Astronomers have discovered a new way of locating a natural phenomenon that acts like a zoom lens and allows astronomers to peer at galaxies in the distant and early Universe.  These results are from the very first data taken as part of the "Herschel-ATLAS" project, the largest imaging survey conducted so far with the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory, and are published in the prestigious scientific journal Science.
The magnification allows astronomers to see galaxies otherwise hidden from us when the Universe was only a few billion years old. This provides key insights into how galaxies have changed over the history of the cosmos.
Dr Loretta Dunne from the School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Nottingham is joint-leader of the Herschel-ATLAS survey. Dr Dunne said: "What we've seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg.  Wide area surveys are essential for finding these rare events and since Herschel has only covered one thirtieth of the entire Herschel-ATLAS area so far, we expect to discover hundreds of lenses once we have all the data. Once found, we can probe the early Universe on the same physical scales as we can in galaxies next door.

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Herschel highlights cosmic zoom lenses

The first results from the Herschel-ATLAS survey have shown that far-infrared surveys provide a remarkably efficient method of finding gravitational lenses, which allow astronomers to zoom in on much more distant galaxies than they would otherwise be able to.
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Scientists in Cardiff say they have developed a new way of exploring hidden distant galaxies, which could improve our understanding of the universe.
Astronomers at Cardiff University say they have found a "relatively simple technique" which acts as a cosmic zoom lens to peer into space.
It was made while using the European Space Agency's Herschel Observatory, a million kilometres above earth.

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On 10th July, the Rosetta spacecraft will pass by the asteroid Lutetia at a distance of a mere 3162km.  It will study the asteroid's surface, dust environment, exosphere, magnetic field, mass and density.  Because Rosetta is speeding past at 15km/s - on its way to a 2014 encounter with comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko - it will only get a quick snapshop of the asteroid.
Closer to home, but some 450 million km from Lutetia, Herschel will be observing the same asteroid.  By staring continuously at Lutetia for several hours before the encounter, Herschel will be able to construct a map of the comet's surface.

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Herschel and Planck win the French Grand Prix

Yesterday in Paris, ESA's Herschel and Planck science missions were honoured by the French Association for Aeronautics and Astronautics. The association's Grand Prix 2010 award for "outstanding space endeavours" was bestowed upon these groundbreaking missions.
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Telescope studies star formation

Astronomers from Cardiff University are involved in research that could help tell us how stars are formed.
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