Herschel: ESA’s supercool heat seeker
ESA’s Herschel infrared observatory has an unprecedented view on the cold universe, bridging the gap between what can be observed from the ground and earlier infrared space missions. Infrared radiation can penetrate the gas and dust clouds that hide objects from optical telescopes, looking deep into star-forming regions, galactic centres and planetary systems. Also cooler objects, such as tiny stars and molecular clouds, even galaxies enshrouded in dust that are barely emitting optical light, can be visible in the infrared. Herschel's solar arrays are mounted on the sunshield that helps keep its temperature down to near absolute zero.
Credits: ESA - C. Carreau
Herschel’s infrared image of the Andromeda Galaxy shows rings of dust that trace gaseous reservoirs where new stars are forming and XMM-Newton’s X-ray image shows stars approaching the ends of their lives. Both infrared and X-ray images convey information impossible to collect from the ground because these wavelengths are absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere.
Credits: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/J.Fritz, U.Gent/XMM-Newton/EPIC/W. Pietsch, MPE