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Herschel observatory back in full operation


The Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI) is a high-resolution heterodyne spectrometer developed by a consortium led by SRON (Groningen, The Netherlands). ESA photo. C. Carreau

NEW DELHI (BNS): ESA’s Herschel observatory will now resume study of forming stars and planets with the reactivation of its HiFi instrument, built specifically to observe water in a variety of celestial objects.

HiFi, the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared, went offline for more than a year due to an unexpected problem in the electronic system called the Local Oscillator Control Unit (LCU). Herschel is stationed 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, according to a report by ESA.

“With Herschel we can’t just go up there and fix it, we have to nurse it back to health,” says David Southwood, ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration. “That nursing took 160 days of concentrated effort from an expert team of engineers.”

Mission controllers made full use of the other two instruments, PACS and SPIRE, while HiFi was down. “Thanks to rescheduling of targets, virtually no science data will be lost,” he said.

Now that HiFi is back in full operation, the instrument will be used extensively during the coming months to study star forming regions in our Galaxy. In particular, the nearby Orion Nebula, a large star-forming region, will become visible towards the end of the month.

HIFI was built specifically to investigate the role of water in the formation of stars and planets, and in the evolution of galaxies.

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