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The Herschel Telescope Close To Blast Off

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the high-tech-to-the-lowest-bid dept.

Space 136

pha7boy writes "The Herschel space observatory, the European Space Agency's answer to the Hubble Telescope, is about to be sent into orbit. With a mirror 1.5 times the size of the Hubble mirror, the Herschel will look at the universe in the infrared and sub-millimeter range. This 'will permit Herschel to see past the dust that scatters Hubble's visible wavelengths, and to gaze at really cold places and objects in the Universe — from the birthing clouds of new stars to the icy comets that live far out in the Solar System.'"

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Cant wait (5, Funny)

dilvish_the_damned (167205) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789389)

till they first post the images from this baby.

Re:Cant wait (2, Interesting)

Piata (927858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789497)

I think Hubble has been one of the most interesting and successful space based missions ever. A lot of the most mind blowing images I've ever seen of space have come from that telescope. Hopefully this telescope will continue the trend.

Re:Cant wait (2, Insightful)

von_rick (944421) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789579)

A lot of progress has taken place in the the field of optics, electronics, cryogenics, material science and communications. Given the additional 1m on the reflector, it'd be safe to assume a far better performance than Hubble.

Re:Cant wait (5, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789709)

Given the additional 1m on the reflector, it'd be safe to assume a far better performance than Hubble.

Yep. Meters matter. A lot. The summary says the mirror is 1.5 times as big (3.5m/2.4m), but really area and thus quantity of incident light is what matters so it's more like 210% as big as Hubble (3.5^2)/(2.4^2). This is a big space telescope. All else being the same, I'd expect this to show a good deal more distant/faint objects.

It says it's infrared, so this may be more comparable to Spitzer than Hubble. Spitzer is only 0.85m. This beast is 17 times the light bucket Spitzer is.

Re:Cant wait (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26789795)

As to resolution, every size listed should be expressed in wavelengths however. And Hubble observes at smaller wavelengths...

Re:Cant wait (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26789851)

Linux just isn't ready for the desktop yet. It may be ready for the web servers that you nerds use to distribute your TRON fanzines and personal Dungeons and Dragons web-sights across the world wide web, but the average computer user isn't going to spend months learning how to use a CLI and then hours compiling packages so that they can get a workable graphic interface to check their mail with, especially not when they already have a Windows machine that does its job perfectly well and is backed by a major corporation, as opposed to Linux which is only supported by a few unemployed nerds living in their mother's basement somewhere. The last thing I want is a level 5 dwarf (haha) providing me my OS.

Re:Cant wait (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790839)

I thought focal length was the biggest factor in resolution? But then again all I know about telescopes comes from hobbyist visible light scopes.

Herschle has half the focal length of Hubble. Kinda surprising, but then again maybe Hubble is designed to have a wider field of view.

Re:Cant wait (4, Interesting)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790443)

Due note too, that the James Webb Space Telescope (the US's next telescope slated to launch in 2013, assuming funding doesn't dry up) is slated to have a 6.5m mirror, which should produce some REALLY nice results.

Re:Cant wait (2, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790911)

Looks similar in design to the huge-primary-made-of-adjustable-smaller-mirror-hexes Hobby-Everly ground-based scope which is 9.5m.

Color me exited. =D

Re:Cant wait (1)

SargentDU (1161355) | more than 5 years ago | (#26791221)

Ok, you're outta here! (Chris Burke said "Color me exited." Did he mean excited? Not what he said. :P)

Re:Cant wait (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26791501)

Of course that's what I meant. I don't make typos.

The tricky part is... what is the color of not being here?!

Re:Cant wait (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26791027)

In addition to that, the JWST will feature a micro-shutter array, composed of over 62,000 individual shutters in the area of a postage stamp. The idea is that each shutter can be independently opened and closed so visible light from near, bright objects can be blocked out making it easier to view objects that are further away.

I had the opportunity to tour the clean room at Goddard Space Flight Center where the array is being fabricated. The techniques used seemed to mirror the techniques used to manufacture modern microprocessors. It was very interesting to be guided through the process, there are definitely some incredibly smart people at Goddard.

Here [nasa.gov] is some more information and pictures of the array.

Re:Cant wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26791077)

They stole that idea from me, the lazy bastards...they should come up with their own ideas and stop posing as rocket scientists, oh wait, you said shutters...never mind.

Re:Cant wait (not just America) (1)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 5 years ago | (#26791297)

According to wikipedia: "JWST is a NASA-led international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. "

Re:Cant wait (1)

nsayer (86181) | more than 5 years ago | (#26791259)

That, and presumably it's not ground like Mr. Magoo's glasses (unlike Hubble was).

Re:Cant wait (2, Funny)

Pictish Prince (988570) | more than 5 years ago | (#26791019)

Especially since they probably didn't screw up the mirror [newscientist.com] this time.

Re:Cant wait (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26789727)

And I can't wait for white middle-class families who were responsible in their spending and home-purchasing decisions to be able to get some of that Pelosi stimulus goodness and refinance their 30 yr 6.3% mortgage with a 4% government-backed mortgage. Oh, wait... You have to be an irresponsible jackass to qualify for a single stimulus dollar. My bad...

Re:Cant wait (5, Funny)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790167)

gaze at really cold places and objects in the Universe

I would think a stethoscope would be a better instrument for examining my ex-wife's heart!

Re:Cant wait (1)

Clandestine_Blaze (1019274) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790595)

Well, that depends. How far away is she? :)

Re:Cant wait (1)

mustafap (452510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790893)

OR how deep ;o)

Re:Cant wait (1)

navyjeff (900138) | more than 5 years ago | (#26791481)

Stone generally requires different instruments, such as saws, picks and drills.

Re:Cant wait (1)

NCG_Mike (905098) | more than 5 years ago | (#26791355)

I'm hoping they finally get some photos if those canals on mars.

hubble mistakes? (2, Interesting)

ArcadeX (866171) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789451)

are we putting money on if they learned from the hubble mistakes?

Re:hubble mistakes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26789945)

Personally, I'm curious whether lunar orbit was considered to avoid the earth orbit trash.

Re:hubble mistakes? (5, Informative)

sidyan (110067) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790533)

As described in here [esa.int] , the point of putting the observatory in a Lissajous orbit [wikipedia.org] around the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point [wikipedia.org] is to have the three nearest and largest sources of infrared light pollution (the earth, the moon, and the sun) sufficiently far away and in the same hemisphere relative to the observatory, allowing for a clear viewing angle anywhere in the other hemisphere.

Re:hubble mistakes? (3, Funny)

phosphorylate this (1412807) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790107)

How rude you yanks are, us europeans don't have to learn from YOUR mistakes.

We are perfectly capable of making our own mistakes while repeating your technological ideas 10-years later and at twice the cost.

Re:hubble mistakes? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26790339)

Actually you're almost 20 years behind. Hubble went up in 1990.

Re:hubble mistakes? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790403)

Actually you're almost 20 years behind. Hubble went up in 1990.

But it was essentially broken until 1993.

Re:hubble mistakes? (1)

GigG (887839) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790427)

The problem is if you repeat our mistakes in this case you don't have a shuttle to go up and fix them.

Re:hubble mistakes? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26790669)

So? It will not only be a bigger telescope, it will be an even bigger mistake. We beat you twice!

not about imaging (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26789519)

This instrument is capable of great science, but spatial resolving power is not it's strong suit. Since it is measuring at wavelenghts much greater than hubble (100-1000x), the 3.5 meter mirror doesn't give you anything like hubble.

european telescope? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26789551)

Hope it doesn't surrender when Hubble passes it by :)

Re:european telescope? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26789725)

And which revisionist history would you be basing that comment on?

Read a history book, dill-hole.

Re:european telescope? (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790171)

And which revisionist history would you be basing that comment on? Read a history book, dill-hole.

He's probably referring to the French involvement in launch vehicle, Ariane 5 [wikipedia.org]

Re:european telescope? (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790109)

Silly AC. It is European, not French only.

Re:european telescope? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26790395)

"Hope it doesn't surrender when Hubble passes it by :)"

Nope. The German bits will strike across the short distance between them, roll a two-pronged tank advance around the Hubble, and incorporate it into their glorious thousand-year astronomical plan....

Re:european telescope? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26790913)

Nope. The German bits will strike across the short distance between them, roll a two-pronged tank advance around the Hubble, and incorporate it into their glorious thousand-year astronomical plan....

NUTS!

It will be intresting for sure (4, Interesting)

SGDarkKnight (253157) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789567)

As for all the new discoverys i'm sure these new telescopes will find, i'm curious if they will do the same thing with these as they did with the hubble, by pointing it at a "black" region of space and leaving it there for a while gathering exposures, only to discover that the region wasn't "black" at all, it was completely filled with all sorts of different galaxies, and this was only a small point in space they were looking.

Here is the link for the Hubble info in case you're intrested.

http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/1996/01/text/ [hubblesite.org]

Re:It will be intresting for sure (4, Informative)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789697)

I'm sure they'll do many deep fields.

Astronomers were well aware that the region of sky used for the Hubble deep field was full of distant objects. It was chosen because the lack of bright, close objects makes it simpler to do really long exposures of the distant, dim ones.

One of the stated goals of the Herschel is to look back to the beginnings of the universe. The best way to do that is by choosing a dark area of the sky and exposing as long as you can.

Re:It will be intresting for sure (4, Interesting)

physburn (1095481) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789889)

Being infrared means it will much better good chance to find exo-planet and asteroid belts. Wonder which of the Herschel or Kepler missions will find more planets.

Extra Solar Planets Feed [feeddistiller.com] , Astronomy Feed [feeddistiller.com]

Re:It will be intresting for sure (4, Interesting)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790295)

Kepler. Kepler is designed to find lots and lots of planets.

Herschel is general purpose, so it will spend a lot of it's time looking outside the galaxy. But it should be very useful for looking in more detail at the planets Kepler finds.

Re:It will be intresting for sure (4, Interesting)

James Youngman (3732) | more than 5 years ago | (#26791695)

This is somewhat ironic considering that William Herschel discovered a planet (Uranus) while Kepler did not.

Re:It will be intresting for sure (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26790079)

In fact, there is no case for very long exposures like the Hubble Deep Field or the Chandra Deep Fields (X-rays) with infrared telescopes, because the maximum depth reachable is not limited by sensitivity (exposure time) but by confusion (resolving power).
The confusion limit is reached when you can not detect any more sources because the field is so crowded that they start overlapping with each other. This limit is usually reached in infrared telescopes long before the detection limit (a few minutes), because the wavelength of the light in this spectral range is so big that the resolving power is very poor.
Note that resolving power is proportional to the diameter of the main mirror and inversely proportional to the observing wavelength, so a ~4.5m telescope like Herschel operating at 100 microns has aproximately half resolving power of an amateur 6cm telescope operating in visible light.
This also implies that the "ESA response to Hubble" statement is absurd and misleading

Infrared? (4, Insightful)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789595)

If it's in infrared, then it's NOT a Hubble replacement, it's a Spitzer [nasa.gov] replacement.

Infrared == looks far away (3, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789659)

A telescope with a bigger mirror can concentrate more light, therefore it sees fainter, more distant, objects. And the further away things are in the universe, the more red-shifted their light is. It really makes sense a space telescope being designed for infrared light, rather than visible.

Re:Infrared == looks far away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26790269)

That depends. EMR that is on shorter wavelengths than light, for distant objects, get red-shited into the optical spectrum. If you want to see a really, truly distant X-Ray or Gamma emitter, the visible spectrum makes a lot of sense.

Re:Infrared == looks far away (1)

wastedlife (1319259) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790391)

I thought red-shift was caused by the direction and speed the object is traveling in relation to us, not its distance.

Re:Infrared == looks far away (2, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790515)

I thought red-shift was caused by the direction and speed the object is traveling in relation to us, not its distance.

That's correct, but the more distant objects are moving away faster than the nearest ones.

Re:Infrared == looks far away (2, Interesting)

Dreadneck (982170) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790537)

Yes, but observations have confirmed that the more distant the object the faster it is receding from us.

Re:Infrared == looks far away (1)

DeltaStorm (118517) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790561)

I thought red-shift was caused by the direction and speed the object is traveling in relation to us, not its distance.

It's both actually. Due to the expansion of the universe, objects that are further away from us are moving away from us faster than closer objects. Hubble's Law [wikipedia.org]

Re:Infrared == looks far away (1)

wastedlife (1319259) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790723)

Thanks for the info. One thing that confuses me about that is assuming everything is moving away from the origin of the universe, wouldn't all galaxies always move away from each other. I recall reading that in some many billions of years, another galaxy will collide with ours. Wouldn't these 2 outcomes be mutually exclusive? Genuinely curious about this.

Re:Infrared == looks far away (2, Informative)

niklask (1073774) | more than 5 years ago | (#26791097)

Thanks for the info. One thing that confuses me about that is assuming everything is moving away from the origin of the universe, wouldn't all galaxies always move away from each other.

On large scales yes that is correct...

I recall reading that in some many billions of years, another galaxy will collide with ours. Wouldn't these 2 outcomes be mutually exclusive? Genuinely curious about this.

...but not on local scales, where the gravitational effects are larger. The Mily Way is gravitationally bound in the Local Group (see Wikipedia).

Re:Infrared == looks far away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26791207)

You're right. There are a lot of observed contradictions in the "redshift=doppler effect" explanation. The recent explanations conclude that we have no idea what is causing the red shift.

Re:Infrared == looks far away (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26791727)

Gravity acts on irregularities in the expanding matter to form clumps which continue to move outward from the center. Otherwise, nothing larger than hydrogen atoms would exist.

Re:Infrared? (1)

brilinux (255400) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789691)

If it's in infrared, then it's NOT a Hubble replacement, it's a Spitzer [nasa.gov] replacement.

Isn't that David Paterson?

Re:Infrared? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26789705)

No silly, Paterson is just a blind nigger :)

Re:Infrared? (1)

Logical Zebra (1423045) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789745)

Right. The Hubble looks at visible wavelengths; this new Herschel does not.

Isn't the Hubble beyond its original estimates for service life? I don't think it will really be around for too many more years, and there aren't plans for another visible spectrum space telescope.

James Webb == Hubble Replacement (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790725)

There aren't any plans?

The article linked to showed the size comparison for the James Webb Space Telescope [nasa.gov] , and its spectral range vs. Hubble (further into IR, but also further into the visible spectrum)

Re:James Webb == Hubble Replacement (1)

CraigParticle (523952) | more than 5 years ago | (#26792585)

The article linked to showed the size comparison for the James Webb Space Telescope [nasa.gov] , and its spectral range vs. Hubble (further into IR, but also further into the visible spectrum)

No no -- not further into the visible than Hubble. The Hubble spectral range from that figure was for the NICMOS (infrared) camera only. It ignored all other Hubble instruments from far-ultraviolet through visible light!

By and large, the original assertion was correct -- Hubble's emphasis was on UV, visible and near-infrared wavelengths. Most of the "pretty pictures" came from the visible light cameras. James Webb will be a large telescope optimized for near/mid infrared observations, with some capability at the red end of the visible spectrum. Herschel is optimized for far-infrared and submillimeter wavelengths.

All three observatories are hugely significant and will give us very different views of the Universe.

Re:Infrared? (3, Interesting)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790343)

It depends what you're comparing. Hubble looks a bit into the near IR too. Spitzer is mostly mid-IR, and Herschel is designed to look at very long wave IR and the higher frequency microwave region. Herschel and Spitzer overlap in wavelength a little bit, but not really that much.

In terms of application, Spitzer is not in the same sensitivity class as Hubble or Herschel, so for really deep field imaging the comparison between Hubble and Herschel is fairly apt.

Manager quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26789603)

"The mirror is an enormous piece of hardware," enthused Thomas Passvogel, Esa's programme manager on the Herschel space observatory.

Sounds like all managers.

Krustovsky? (1, Funny)

Facetious (710885) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789707)

Now why did that pop into my head?

Re:Krustovsky? (1)

bradgoodman (964302) | more than 5 years ago | (#26792443)

MOD UP

Not offtopic - was the first thing that I thought of too!!

Anyone who mods down is just prejudiced against Jewish clowns.

Oblig. (0)

escay (923320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789711)

and to gaze at really cold places

you mean, like Uranus?

sorry, couldn't resist.

Re:Oblig. (0, Offtopic)

Dreadneck (982170) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790571)

Or the wife's hoo-hoo?

Here's hoping (1)

Onyma (1018104) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789749)

someone ground the reflector to the correct shape!

I too can't wait for the first images... it is a great time to be alive if you love learning more about the world / universe around us.

Guide to Ninnle Posts! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26789769)

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2. The story can be anything about Ninnle Linux, NinnleBSD, Ninnle Office, NinWM or Ninnle Labs, and must contain at least one in the body of the comment.

3. The CEO and CFO of Ninnle Labs are P. O. Prune and Joseph Bloggins respectively. Either or both ofthese may be used in proper context.

4. 'First Ninnle Post!" and variants are offtopic and silly.

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7. Spread the word about Ninnle.

Happy Ninnling!

Why not visible light? (1, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789823)

I don't understand why all of the newer space telescopes seem to forsake visible light.

Re:Why not visible light? (5, Informative)

StaticEngine (135635) | more than 5 years ago | (#26789989)

Redshift, probably.

When you're looking at things really really far away, the frequencies shift towards the red end of the spectrum due to the doppler effect of the Hubble Expansion. If we only looked in the visible spectrum, we wouldn't see anything, because the light had already shifted out of the proper range. Thus, but looking towards the infrared and longer wavelengths, we can actually detect things that originally light emitted in the visible spectrum but are reaching us in a heavily stretched state.

Re:Why not visible light? (1)

ceh2624 (624371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790487)

Fascinating except the objects that far away aren't going anywhere near the speed of light and therefore should not red shift beyond visible, even at that distance.

Re:Why not visible light? (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790769)

A lot of these objects are really far away, and over the billions of years since the light was emitted, the actual space that its had to travel has grown as the universe expands. All of that adds up and the light is significantly red-shifted.

Re:Why not visible light? (1)

Bemopolis (698691) | more than 5 years ago | (#26791347)

ASTRONOMY FAIL.

Re:Why not visible light? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26791613)

Fascinating except the objects that far away aren't going anywhere near the speed of light and therefore should not red shift beyond visible, even at that distance.

High red shifts have been observed. Most people agree on one with z=7 and some have suggested objects have z=10. These shifts are high enough to shift visible light into the infrared.

Re:Why not visible light? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26790703)

If only the Hubble Space Telescope took into account this "Hubble Expansion" of which you speak...

Re:Why not visible light? (2, Informative)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790017)

I wasn't exactly sure myself until this comment [slashdot.org] and this wiki entry [wikipedia.org] . If we focused them on visible spectrums, we'd not notice the most distant emissions. Since attempting to detect obejects that are extremely distant is the apparently the whole bit with the Herschel telescope it starts to make sense.

Re:Why not visible light? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790969)

That still doesn't answer the question about why they didn't include the visible spectrum. The way I see it, if you're building this giant space telescope with multiple sensors anyway, why not throw in a visible light camera for good measure? Sure, it may not be the main focus of the mission, but when Hubble's electronics finally bite the dust (and at this rate, that may be before too long), there's going to be a real lack of these breathtaking images of space for many years. All of that could be avoided by simply having something to take over that load when the time comes. And remember, while the infrared instruments may give you data that scientists want, public funding comes only in response to pretty pictures....

The same argument applies to the U.S. telescope scheduled to replace Hubble in 2013 for the same reason. It's all infrared as well.

Re:Why not visible light? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26790023)

Because the radiation emitted by stars isn't just visible light. There's all sorts of EM waves being transmitted. By gathering a range of EM waves, instead of just visible light, we can gather information, which is critical when you think of the tiny numbers of photons we receive from these distant stars.

Re:Why not visible light? (3, Informative)

burris (122191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790025)

I'm only an amateur astronomer but... With adaptive optics we can get better visible light images with ground based telescopes like Keck than with any orbiting telecope that could be launched any time soon. However, infrared is blocked by the atmosphere so an observatory without an atmosphere is required.

Re:Why not visible light? (3, Informative)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790113)

Yup. I don't know that I'd even call myself an amatuer astronomer but I remember being fascinated by a Nova episode about IRAS ages ago.

This is a very poorly explored region of the spectrum, hence the interest. I think the issue with sending up another Hubble is that it just isn't as much bang for buck.

Don't get me wrong - it seems silly not to have ONE visual spectrum space telescope, but looking into different wavelengths is far more likely to turn up revolutionary results and advance the field.

Here's an analogy. We discover a planet on a distant star. Which is more likely to turn up new results - a detailed observation of that distant planet, or a careful high-resolution analysis of craters on the Earth's moon? Sure, the latter might be good science, and turn up results, but it just isn't going to be as likely to change how we think about everything.

Re:Why not visible light? (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790253)

I'm only an amateur astronomer but... With adaptive optics we can get better visible light images with ground based telescopes like Keck than with any orbiting telecope that could be launched any time soon. However, infrared is blocked by the atmosphere so an observatory without an atmosphere is required.

Then imagine what we could do if we put an AO telescope array in space!

Re:Why not visible light? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790387)

Get really expensive, not much better images?

Adaptive optics help cancel out the distortions produced by the atmosphere. That's not particularly useful on a space telescope.

Once you've got adaptive optics to take away most of the biggest advantages for space telescopes, the ease of building giant mirrors on the ground takes over and you get much better performance for your budget.

Re:Why not visible light? (2, Interesting)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790601)

Get really expensive, not much better images?

Adaptive optics help cancel out the distortions produced by the atmosphere. That's not particularly useful on a space telescope.

Once you've got adaptive optics to take away most of the biggest advantages for space telescopes, the ease of building giant mirrors on the ground takes over and you get much better performance for your budget.

Depends on what your goal is. However, you are correct in this matter.

Yes, AO is generally a specific application of a telescopic array designed to thwart distortions caused by an atmosphere. I should have been a bit more clear on this. In this case, I was mixing up AO with a composite mirror/detector telescope.

However, imagine an array much larger than we could build on the ground. For instance, multiple telescopes in orbit around the moon, earth, and the sun? You could use that for all sorts of interesting research (is there an application for multiple parallaxes?), but you could get a hell of a lot of resolution with an array the size of 2AU diameter (for instance, multiple telescopes in an earthlike orbit.)

Re:Why not visible light? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26792033)

I thought you might be referring to interferometry in your original post, when you mentioned an array.

You CAN build very high resolution interferometers in space. There are some problems though. As far as I know you couldn't build a bigger visible or infrared interferometer than we can already build on the ground. The individual elements of those have to be linked by fibre optics because we don't have a good way of recording phase information for optical frequencies.

Space interferometers definitely work at radio frequencies, but they do different things than telescopes like Hubble. An interferometer has very high resolution (and very small field of view) but doesn't have matching light gathering ability. If you want to try to image extrasolar planets or count sunspots on other stars, an interferometer is the way to go. If you want to look at the early universe or do sky surveys, they are not.

Re:Why not visible light? (2, Informative)

Alinabi (464689) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790147)

Because visible light is scattered by dust a lot more that IR. So if you want to look inside a protoplanetary disc, visible light is not of much use.

Re:Why not visible light? (4, Insightful)

mjaga (974040) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790205)

It's because it makes sense to use space telescopes to look at radiation that can't be observed with ground based telescopes, because the Earth's atmosphere absorbs all of it. Herschel with its three instruments (HIFI, PACS and SPIRE) operates in the submm and far infrared, a part of the spectrum inaccessible from ground, and will spend a lot of observing time e.g. to look at interstellar water, a molecule believed to play an important role for the cooling of star forming clouds.

Misleading story summary is misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26789893)

This is not a "competitor" to Hubble, it's not the same type of telescope as Hubble. It's in the same family of observatories as Spitzer/SIRTF:
http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/spitzer/index.shtml

GL, HF (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790141)

20 bucks sez the mission goes smooth, without a hitch.

Blastof, Russia (1)

slashdotmsiriv (922939) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790169)

Am I the only one who read it as:
"the Herschel telescope close to the Russian city of Blastof" ?

Re:Blastof, Russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26790309)

Am I the only one who read it as: "the Herschel telescope close to the Russian city of Blastof" ?

Yes.

Re:Blastof, Russia (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790385)

Yes. Yes you are.

To Be Announced... (0)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790229)

Not to be outdone by Europe, the US plan to launch the next generation follow-up to the Hubble Telescope!

Re:To Be Announced... (2, Informative)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790485)

Not to be outdone by Europe, the US plan to launch the next generation follow-up to the Hubble Telescope!

That would be the James Webb Space Telescope [wikipedia.org] , and it's been in the works for quite a while.

Re:To Be Announced... (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 5 years ago | (#26791851)

It would be nice if they did. Something has to keep politicians interested in funding science.

It's really not directly comperable to Hubble (4, Informative)

DrBuzzo (913503) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790479)

The way this is written and the story is written it makes the telescope sound like the next generation, bigger, better Hubble Space Telescope. That's not really that acurate. Hubble is designed to look primarily at visible light and near infrared. It also can observe in the UV or a combination of the spectrum using the instruments on board.
The Herschel telescope is designed entirely for infrared. It extends coverage below the capabilities of the HST's infrared camera/spectrometer package and has optics designed for optimal gain in the infrared.
Both of these kinds of telescopes have their advantages and limitations. Infrared alone won't allow for the kind of spectrometry and band analysis that Hubble is capable of. However, it will be able to resolve more distant objects, especially those obscured by dust or gas, much better than Hubble can and will be able to see things that the Hubble telescope can't. On the other hand, areas could be obscured if they have enough hot gas or if there are large medium temperature stars, like red giants and interstellar gas to reflect their light off of. The reality is that both instruments fill an important role and that's why it's important to get the HST back up to its full capacity.

Launch is still months away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26790493)

Scheduled apparently for April 16

Launch Date: April 16 (3, Informative)

onco_p53 (231322) | more than 5 years ago | (#26790629)

April 16 Ariane 5 Herschel & Planck
Launch time: approx. 1230 GMT (8:30 a.m. EDT)
Launch site: ELA-3, Kourou, French Guiana

Arianespace Flight 188 will use an Ariane 5 rocket with an ECA upper stage to launch the European Space Agency's Herschel and Planck observatories. The Herschel infrared telescope will study the evolution of stars and galaxies and the Planck spacecraft will observe the cosmic background radiation left over from the Big Bang. [Jan. 14]

http://www.spaceflightnow.com/tracking/index.html [spaceflightnow.com]

Main Task... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26790697)

How well does it find oil?

About time (1)

Stonefred (999097) | more than 5 years ago | (#26791041)

Watching tv is getting boring ...

Mirror (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#26791759)

So are they getting the mirror right this time before launch?

Isn't this similar to Spitzer Space Telescope? (2, Informative)

Neanderthal Ninny (1153369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26792517)

This is same idea, but a much larger mirror, as the Spitzer Space Telescope:
http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/about/index.shtml [caltech.edu]

The ESA, NASA and JPL have collaborated on this project since this appears to scaled up version of Spitzer Space Telescope with 6 years of advanced technology and lesson learned from Spitzer Space Telescope.

Good luck ESA with sending Herschel and Planck in space.

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