Herschel Space Telescope’s SPIRE instrument package makes first-light observations

A scientific instrument package developed in part by the University of Colorado at Boulder for the $2.2 billion orbiting Herschel Space Observatory that was launched in May by the European Space Agency has made its first successful observations, targeting two star-forming galaxies near the Milky Way.

Sporting a 3.5-meter mirror, the Herschel Space Observatory is the largest space telescope ever built and flown. Herschel is about one-and-one-half times the diameter of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The instrument package aboard Herschel that was used for the observations is known as the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver, or SPIRE, said CU-Boulder astrophysical and planetary sciences Associate Professor Jason Glenn, a co-investigator on the SPIRE experiment. CU-Boulder will have received nearly $2 million from NASA for the combined support of SPIRE instrument development and science data analysis during the lifetime of the project, said Glenn.

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