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Launched in May 2009, the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory has the largest single mirror ever built for a space telescope. At 3.5-metres in diameter the mirror collects long-wavelength radiation from some of the coldest and most distant objects in the Universe. In addition, Herschel is the only space observatory to cover a spectral range from the far infrared to sub-millimetre.

Herschel is equipped with three instruments: two cameras and a very high resolution spectrometer, enable it to study the formation of galaxies in the early universe and their subsequent evolution; investigate the creation and evolution of stars and planetary systems and examine the molecular chemistry of the universe.   

Herschel is operated as an observatory facility. It is available to the worldwide scientific community, roughly two thirds of the observing time is 'open time' allocated through standard competitive calls for observing proposals. STFC made a major contribution to the instrumentation of Herschel, via the SPIRE instrument, and are leading the exploitation of this mission.  

Support for the the operation of Herschel is funded by the UK Space Agency (UKSA), which is an executive agency of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).  UKSA works with STFC which funds researchers to exploit the scientific data yielded by Herschel.

UK Involvement

Imperial College London

STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

STFC UK Astronomy Technology Centre

Cardiff University

Last updated: 08 June 2017


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