Love to read science papers? Here’s a batch that will keep you busy for a while. 152 papers were released this morning highlighting the Herschel telescope’s first science results. A few papers describe the observatory and its instruments, and the rest are dedicated to observations of many astronomical targets from bodies in the Solar System to distant galaxies. Herschel is the only space observatory to cover a spectral range from the far infrared to sub-millimeter, so there’s a wide range of objects and topics covered, including star formation, galaxy evolution, and cosmology.
And you thought you’d have nothing to do this weekend!
A few highlights:
Herschel has taken a look at the ‘Great Observatory Origins Deep Survey’ (GOODS), an area of the sky not blocked by foreground objects like stars in our own galaxy or other nearby galaxies, so this area is ideal for observing deep space. While many other telescopes have peered into this region, Herschel’s SPIRE instrument has taken a look in submillimeter wavelengths. Each fuzzy blob is a very distant galaxy seen as they were three to ten billion years ago when star formation was very more widespread throughout the Universe. The image is made from the three SPIRE bands, with blue, green, and red, corresponding to 250, 350, and 500 ?m, respectively.
Herschel has imaged (Fig. 2) a stellar nursery around 1000 light-years away in the constellation Aquila (the Eagle). This cloud, 65 light-years across, is so shrouded by dust that no infrared satellite has been able to see into it, until now. Embedded in the dusty filaments are 700 condensations of dust and gas that will eventually become stars. Astronomers estimate that about 100 are ‘protostars’, that is, celestial objects in the final stages of formation.
An observation the ‘sword’ in the constellation of Orion shows a star-forming region. A characteristic feature is the spectral richness: among the organic molecules identified in this spectrum are water, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, methanol, dimethyl ether, hydrogen cyanide, sulphur oxide, and sulphur dioxide. This spectrum is the first glimpse of the spectral richness of regions of star and planet formation.
To follow Herschel, check out the Herschel Science Centre Latest News webpage.