Largest infrared telescope ever hits space

14th May 2009 | 14:47

Largest infrared telescope ever hits space

Herschel is big enough to humble Hubble

Two super-sized telescopes have been blasted into space, in the hope of gleaning more information about the galaxy and beyond.

Billed as two of the most sophisticated space crafts ever built, Herschel and Planck – who sound like they are detectives in a Tintin book – have been sent into orbit with the mission of studying Cosmic Microwave Background to figure out the secrets behind the creation of our universe.

Bigger than Hubble

Hershel is the daddy of the two spacecraft. It houses the largest infrared telescope ever built, so big that Patrick Moore is the size of a spec of dust compared to it. Okay, it's not that big but it does have a 3.5 metre primary mirror – one and a half times bigger than the Hubble telescope.

The latest update of the European Space Agency website reveals that both telescopes have "separated successfully from the launcher and are alive". Hopefully not alive like Skynet but the mission sounds like it is ticking along nicely.

For a more detailed analysis of just what is happening with the two telescopes, check out www.esa.int.

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