July 10, 2009
All three of Herschel's instruments have now opened their eyes and collected their first astronomy data. The new images and spectra (fingerprints of cosmic light) demonstrate that the instruments and the telescope, which observe light with longer infrared wavelengths, are working as expected. The mission, led by the European Space Agency with important participation from NASA, has reached its final destination -- an orbit around the second Lagrange point of the Earth-sun system, located 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) from Earth.
Once Herschel's checkout is complete, in a few months or so, Herschel will begin probing the youthful side of our cosmos. It will investigate the raw materials for stars; baby stars still nestled in cocoons; and sprightly galaxies churning out new stars. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., developed and built crucial mission-enabling technology for two of the three instruments, the heterodyne instrument for the far infrared, and the spectral and photometric imaging receiver.
More information is online at http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMAYT6CTWF_index_0.html .
More information about NASA's role in the mission is at http://www.herschel.caltech.edu/