Farewell Herschel: One of Humanity's Greatest Telescopes Will See No More

The Atlantic

View gallery

.
Herschel_Orion-B_Horsehead.jpg

It was bound to happen sooner or later: The European Space Agency's Herschel Space Telescope has run out of the liquid helium it uses to keep cool. With the temperatures of all instruments on board spiking, the spacecraft's mission has ended. It will be propelled to an orbit around the sun, where, the ESA says, "it will remain indefinitely."

Herschel launched four years ago from French Guiana with 2,300 liters of the helium, thought to be enough to keep the instruments cool for a bit more than three years. During its career, it captured the infrared light emanating from some of the coolest regions of the universe. Below are some of the highlights from the mission, all of which have been adjusted so that they appear in light humans can see (because they would be quite dull otherwise):

The W3 Nebula

View gallery

.
Herschel_w3_70_160_250-orig.jpg

6,200 light years away from Earth in one of our spiral galaxy's main arms is this massive star-forming region known as W3. Discovered originally in 2006, Herschel took this image of it just last month. The tiny yellow dots are low-mass protostars; the violet regions contain giant stars, with eight times more mass than our sun.


The Cygnus X Region

View gallery

.
Herschel_CygnusX_07052012_horizontal_comp.jpg

Another star-forming region, Cygnus X, is a bit closer than W3, at 4,500 light years. The image captures how the formation of stars, many of which are very young and very huge, results in the development of related structures -- filaments, clouds, etc. -- throughout the entire region.


The Orion Nebula

View gallery

.
Orion_Herschel_Spitzer.jpg

This image was created by combining observations from Herschel and Spitzer, another infrared space telescope. Herschel's observations (from the far-infrared part of the spectrum) appear in red and green, showing younger protostars. Spitzer's (mid-infrared) appear in blue, showing older stars. The Orion nebula is even closer yet, at about 1,344 light years away.


The Andromeda Galaxy

View gallery

.
M31_COMPO_A-3.jpg

This is a really cool way to see how the work of different telescopes can come together to make something much more information-heavy (not to mention beautiful) than they can alone. Because the Andromeda Galaxy is our closest spiral neighbor, scientists look to it for clues to understanding our own spiral galaxy. In the above image, Herschel's observations alone are shown in the upper right corner, XMM-Newton's in the bottom right, and an astrophotographer's in the top left. All three are combined in the bottom left composite image.


The Sky

View gallery

.
Herschel-ATLAS_SDP_large2.jpg

This survey image captures a portion of the sky eight times the width of the moon, located in the direction of the constellation Hydra. There are more than 6,000 *galaxies* in the image, some of whose light is reaching us billions of years after it was generated. Many of them appear just as single dots.





More From The Atlantic

Rates

View Comments (0)

Recommended for You

  • Tycoon buys 30 Rolls-Royces for Macau hotel

    A Hong Kong tycoon has placed the biggest ever order for Rolls-Royce cars, agreeing to buy 30 Phantoms to chauffeur guests at a luxury resort he's building in the global gambling capital of Macau. Stephen Hung's $20 million purchase surpasses the 14 Phantoms bought by Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel in…

    Associated Press
  • Master's Degree in Nursing

    CCNE accredited MS in nursing in as few as 18 months online. Learn more today!

    AdChoicesNorwich UniversitySponsored
  • Tycoon's arrest sends shock wave through Russia

    Tycoon's arrest sends shock wave through Russia MOSCOW (AP) — The arrest of a Russian telecoms and oil tycoon has sent shock waves through the country's business community, with some fearing a return to the dark days of a decade ago, when the Kremlin asserted its power by imprisoning the country's…

    Associated Press
  • Before You Buy Alibaba, Check Out 4 Top China Stocks

    Before You Buy Alibaba, Check Out 4 Top China Stocks While investors gear up for Alibaba Group 's (BABA) hotly anticipated initial public offering, don't forget about other Chinese stocks that are worth keeping an eye on. Today's Young Guns Screen of

    Investor's Business Daily
  • As Fed takes baby steps, Cramer's trick for profit

    In turn, Cramer says making money in the market, involves looking at the environment through the lens of the Fed. "The trick is to remember that they speak for the common person," Cramer said. "The Fed wants the common person to make money." With that backdrop always in mind, Cramer says it becomes…

    CNBC
  • "The Retiree Next Door": How successful retirees stretch their savings

    "The Retiree Next Door": How successful retirees stretch their savingsBy the time she hit her late 40s, Toni Eugenia wasn’t sure she would ever be able to retire. Eugenia, 56, a pharmacy technician who lived in Houston, was nearly $200,000 in debt and

    Yahoo Finance
  • Costco Stores in Canada to Stop Taking American Express

    “The credit card relationship between American Express and Costco Wholesale Canada will not be renewed when it expires” on Dec. 31, the company said today in an e-mail to Canadian customers. The message was attributed to Lorelle Gilpin, vice president of marketing and membership for Costco…

    Bloomberg
  • Beanie Babies creator's sentence debated in court

    Beanie Babies creator's sentence debated in court CHICAGO (AP) — Federal prosecutors seeking to put the billionaire creator of Beanie Babies in prison for hiding millions in Swiss bank accounts told appellate court judges Wednesday that the toymaker's sentence of probation threatens to erode the…

    Associated Press
  • Norwich Information Security MS

    Online, accredited, top ranked. NSA Center of Academic Excellence. Recognized by the Department of Homeland Security. Download your free brochure!

    AdChoicesNorwich UniversitySponsored
  • Apple to unveil new iPads, operating system on Oct. 21 : report

    The company plans to unveil the sixth generation of its iPad and the third edition of the iPad mini, as well as its operating system OS X Yosemite, which has undergone a complete visual overhaul, the Internet news website said. Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Apple, declined to comment. The iPad is…

    Reuters
  • Play

    Citi, Bank of America Offer Discounted Mortgages

    Citigroup and Bank of America will offer mortgages at discounted interest rates to help borrowers with low incomes or subprime credit. AnnaMaria Andriotis joins MoneyBeat. Photo: Getty.

    WSJ Live
  • Gilead Stock Is Falling On These Drug Setbacks

    Gilead Stock Is Falling On These Drug Setbacks Gilead Sciences (GILD) shares are backsliding Wednesday on news that the patient drop-out rate for hepatitis C drug Sovaldi is quadruple that of clinical trials. In addition, the biotech's Phase 2 study results

    Investor's Business Daily
  • Don't care about Alibaba? Here's why it may matter

    When the Alibaba Group Holding prices its initial public offering Thursday, small businesses in particular will be watching. Founder Jack Ma -the former English-teacher-turned-dot-com billionaire-has touted his e-commerce platform as a way for smaller merchants to expand their international…

    CNBC
  • CNBC Anchor Calls Out Fed-Hater Bill Fleckenstein In Startling Shouting Match

    CNBC Bill Fleckenstein of Fleckenstein Capital appeared on CNBC's Futures Now program on Tuesday. Futures Now host Jackie DeAngelis came out swinging, asking Fleckenstein right at the top if he was willing to admit that he had misunderstood monetary policy. Sounding taken aback, Fleckenstein…

    Business Insider
  • Play

    Tues., Sept. 16: Watch Humana Stock

    Humana, Global X Social Media Index ETF and Majesco Entertainment are among stocks to watch. WSJ's Chris Dieterich discusses the details with Michael Casey. Photo: Humana

    WSJ Live
  • Wondering How You Could Save on Home Insurance?

    Get a quote from Farmers Insurance and discover how you could save. Speak with an agent to get the knowledge you need to make an informed decision.

    AdChoicesFarmers InsuranceSponsored
  • Here's What Mark Cuban Wishes He Knew About Money In His 20s

    Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. Billionaire investor and entrepreneur Mark Cuban is generous with his advice. When we asked him what he wishes he'd known about money in his 20s, he said:

    Business Insider
  • Margaritaville casino owners seek bankruptcy

    The owner of Biloxi's Margaritaville casino has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday, only hours before a hearing where the landlord aimed to seize the property. The filing by MVB Holding LLC in U.S. Don Dornan, a lawyer for landlord Clay Point LLC, said the company had planned to ask…

    Associated Press
  • Embraer to sell 50 E-175 jets to Republic in $2.1 billion deal

    Brazil's Embraer SA, the world's third largest commercial planemaker, said on Wednesday it booked a firm order from U.S. The deal, which will be included in Embraer's order book for the third quarter, is valued at $2.1 billion, the planemaker said in a securities filing. The planes will be operated…

    Reuters
  • SHOE COMPANY: Our CEO Just Disappeared And Most Of The Money Is Gone

    "and like that: he's gone." This is an actual headline from a company press release: "CEO and COO disappeared, most of the company's cash missing." (Via FastFT) In a statement, German-based shoe company Ultrasonic said its CFO,  Chi Kwong Clifford Chan, has been unable to reach the company's CEO,…

    Business Insider
  • Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: AEP, BHP, GE, Incyte, 3M, Tyco, Under Armour and More

    Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: AEP, BHP, GE, Incyte, 3M, Tyco, Under Armour and More Stocks were firm on Wednesday morning ahead of the FOMC meeting outcome. Tuesday’s rally may have sparked higher interest again, and investors are looking for bargains

    24/7 Wall St.
  • Don't buy Alibaba stock: 'Dean of Valuation'

    Investors should steer clear of Alibaba , valuation expert Aswath Damodaran said Wednesday. On CNBC's " Fast Money ," Damodaran, a professor of finance at New York University's Stern School of Business, noted that he was looking at Alibaba stock from the perspective of a long-term investor, not a…

    CNBC
  • Take Your Career in Law to the Next Level!

    Earn an accredited Master of Laws in only 1 year. 100% online, No LSAT required, and 5 concentrations offered, including Taxation Law. Apply today!

    AdChoicesThomas Jefferson Law Sponsored
  • Play

    Analyzing the Fed's Exit Strategy

    The Federal Reserve’s ultralow interest rates will stay in place but it is still on track to wind down its bond-buying program. David Lebovitz of J.P. Morgan Funds joins the News Hub. Photo: Getty.

    WSJ Live