The Herschel Space Observatory

Launch: May 14, 2009
Status: Mission completed

The Herschel Space Observatory was the largest most powerful infrared telescope ever flown in space. During its active lifespan, it made over 35,000 observations and logged more than 25,000 hours of studying the Universe, unveiled previously invisible celestial objects, and leading to new insights into the origin and evolution of stars, planets and galaxies.

Through funding from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), two Canadian teams of astronomers were an integral part of the development and operations of two of the three science instruments on board the European Space Agency's telescope: the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI) and the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE).

Professor Michel Fich of the University of Waterloo is the Principal Investigator for HIFI in Canada, to which Canada contributed a key sub-system (known as the Local Oscillator Source Unit) built by COM DEV, in Cambridge, Ontario. Professor David Naylor of the University of Lethbridge is the Principal Investigator for Canada's contribution to SPIRE. The Canadian Herschel science team consists of scientists from: the University of British Columbia, University of Calgary, Western University, Toronto University, University of Victoria, McMaster University and the National Research Council Canada. A high tech spin-off company, Blue Sky Spectroscopy of Lethbridge, Alberta, was founded as one of three worldwide centres of expertise to process SPIRE's data.

Artistic Image of the Herschel Space Observatory

Artistic illustration of the Herschel Space Observatory (Credit: ESA - D. Ducros, 2009)