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ESA to launch Herschel and Planck missions this month

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Herschel and Planck. Image Credit: ESA

PARIS (BNS): Herschel and Planck -- two of the most sophisticated astronomical spacecraft ever built, will be launched by European Space Agency (ESA) this month towards deep space orbits around a special observation point beyond the Moon’s orbit.

According to a press release by ESA, both spacecraft will begin a revolutionary observation campaign that will further the understanding of the history of the Universe.

The pair will be lofted in tandem by an Ariane 5 ECA launcher. Lift-off is now scheduled for 15:12 CEST (13:12 GMT) on Thursday 14 May, from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

Herschel is a large far-infrared space telescope designed to study some of the coldest objects in space, in a part of the electromagnetic spectrum still mostly unexplored. Planck is a telescope that will map the fossil light of the Universe - light from the Big Bang – with unprecedented sensitivity and accuracy.

The 7.5-m-tall, 4-m-wide Herschel is the largest infrared telescope ever launched.

Herschel will be able to see through the opacity of cosmic dust and gas and observe structures and events far away that date back to the early Universe – such as the birth and evolution of early stars and galaxies – ten thousand million years ago, in an effort to determine exactly how it all started.

Planck will measure temperature variations in the very early Universe.

The main launch event for Herschel/Planck will be held at ESOC, the Agency’s establishment in Darmstadt, Germany. A live TV transmission of the launch will supply images from Kourou and from mission control at ESOC/Darmstadt to broadcasters, concluded the report.

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