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Herschel Latest News

Status summary: Herschel was successfully launched together with Planck on 14 May 2009. Science observing started in autumn 2009 and continued until 29 April 2013, when end-of-helium took place in DTCP#1447 after successfully performing all observing scheduled for OD#1446. Herschel is now in post-operations phase until the end of 2017.

All Herschel science data are publicly available from the Herschel Science Archive. Herschel has successfully conducted ~23400 hr (~37,000 AORs) of HOTAC-approved science observations, that can be searched and listed using the Observing Log. In addition ~2600 hr (~6600 AORs) of science calibration observations and an increasing amount of "User Provided Data Products" (UPDPs) are also being served by the HSA.



Herschel Users Questionnaire 2014

Heads-up: HUG Survey - deadline 30 April 2014. The Herschel Users' Group (HUG) would like to hear about the community's experience with the Herschel Science Archive (HSA). The questionnaire is anonymous and there is no way to trace your identity and connect it with your responses. Please respond by 30 April 2014 so that the HUG can discuss the results during their next meeting. Access the Survey here.


Herschel survey in infrared. Credit: ESA/Herschel/HRS-SAG2 and HeViCS Key Programmes/L. Cortese (Swinburne University) Herschel survey in visible light. Credit: Sloan Digital Sky Survey/L. Cortese (Swinburne University) Comparison of the quality of our PACS images with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey optical and SPIRE 250 μm images.

Herschel Reference Survey of dust in representative sample of nearby galaxies. Herschel has observed a sample of 323 local galaxies in order to investigate how dust emission in the 100-500 µm range correlates with other galactic properties (Cortese et al. 2014). The HRS is the largest representative sample of nearby galaxies, spanning four orders of magnitude in stellar mass, and a wide range of morphologies, cold gas contents, metallicities, and star formation activities. There is a smooth transition in the shape of the dust SED (dust absorption coefficient β with frequency) when moving from giant to dwarf galaxies. This variation is observed to be much more related to the metallicity of the ISM than to the mass or morphology of a galaxy. For more information and figure captions see the ESA Herschel Space Science Portal and SciTech web releases.


This image shows a composite view of the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 5044. Copyright: Digitised Sky Survey/NASA Chandra/Southern Observatory for Astrophysical Research/Very Large Array (Robert Dunn et al. 2010) This graph shows a spectrum of the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 5044 taken with ESA's Herschel Space Observatory at far-infrared wavelengths. Copyright: ESA/Herschel/PACS. Acknowledgments: Norbert Werner, Stanford University, CA, USA This image shows a composite view of the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1399. Copyright: Digitised Sky Survey/NASA Chandra/Very Large Array (Robert Dunn et al. 2010) This graph shows a spectrum of the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1399 taken with ESA's Herschel Space Observatory at far-infrared wavelengths. Copyright: ESA/Herschel/PACS. Acknowledgments: Norbert Werner, Stanford University, CA, USA

Herschel detects cold gas in nearby giant elliptical galaxies. Contrary to general belief, by performing Herschel/PACS observations in the restframe 158 µm C+ line in a sample of nearby giant elliptical galaxies, cold gas has been detected in six out of eight targets (Werner et al. 2014). However, despite the presence of the cold gas these galaxies do not form stars. It is argued this is because the jets from their central supermassive black holes heat or stir up the gas preventing it from turning into stars. For more information and figure captions see the ESA Herschel SciTech web release.


Artist impression of Ceres Submillimetre water absorption line from the dwarf planet (1)Ceres. Water detection on Ceres. Credit: Adapted from Küppers et al

Herschel discovers water on Ceres. Herschel/HIFI observations of dwarf planet (1) Ceres in the 557 GHz ground-state water line have conclusively revealed water vapour (Küppers et al. 2014). Observations on four different occasions including repeatedly throughout a complete Ceres revolution indicate that the probable origin of the observed water are two localised sources on the surface of Ceres. This is the first unambiguous detection of water vapour around an object in the asteroid belt. For more information and figure captions see the ESA Herschel SciTech and Space Science Portal web releases.


Part of the SPIRE consortium in Cardiff in June 2013 SPIRE focal plane unit being integrated onto the Herschel optical bench in Astrium in April 2007 SPIRE focal plane unit being integrated onto the Herschel optical bench in Astrium in April 2007 SPIRE focal plane unit being integrated onto the Herschel optical bench in Astrium in April 2007

Herschel/SPIRE Consortium awarded RAS Group Achievement Award. In its 'Ordinary Meeting' held on 10 January 2014 the Royal Astronomical Society announced that the Herschel/SPIRE Consortium will be awarded the 2014 RAS Group Achievement Award for achievement by a large consortium in astronomy. The Award will be presented in the National Astronomy Meeting to take place in Portsmouth in June 2014. Images above: Part of the SPIRE consortium in Cardiff in June 2013, and the SPIRE focal plane unit being integrated onto the Herschel optical bench in Astrium in April 2007. See also the RAS press release and the UK Herschel outreach webpages.



The Crab Nebula. Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/MESS Key Programme Supernova Remnant Team; NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University) Herschel image and spectrum of the Crab Nebula, with emission lines from the molecular ion argon hydride. Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS, SPIRE/MESS Key Programme Supernova Remnant Team Detection of a Noble Gas Molecular Ion, 36ArH+, in the Crab Nebula (Barlow, M. et al. 2013)

Herschel stumbles on noble gas molecule 36ArH+ in the Crab Nebula. Using the Herschel/SPIRE FTS spectrometer lines from the noble-gas based molecular ion argon hydride 36ArH+ have been detected in an astronomical icon, the Crab Nebula (Barlow et al. 2013). This serendipitous discovery lends direct support to the hypothesis that the Crab Nebula is the product of a core-collapse explosion of an 8-16 solar mass star, observed by the Chinese in 1054 AD as a supernova. The detection of 36ArH+ is consistent with the observed 36Ar having been synthesised in the supernova explosion. For further information and image captions and credits see the ESA Herschel SciTech webrelease and Space in Images.


'The Universe Explored by Herschel' symposium material posted! The Universe Explored by Herschel symposium was held on 15-18 October 2013 to present, discuss, and take stock of the scientific results based on Herschel to date. In the four days 114 talks were given and about 200 posters displayed by over 350 attendees. We want to collect all presentations (talks and posters) for posting on the symposium website; the talks are basically there, but many more posters are still needed! We also want to thank everyone who participated and helped making the symposium a very successful event. Thank you!


E-modes and B-modes in the CMB polarisation (left and right panels, respectively) and the gravitational potential of the large-scale distribution of matter that is lensing the CMB (central panel) from SPT and Herschel data. Credit: Image from D. Hanson, et al., 2013, Physical Review Letters, 111, 141301

Herschel contributes to first detection of CMB 'B-modes'. By combining data from the South Pole Telescope polarisation-sensitive receiver SPTpol with Herschel/SPIRE data the first detection of CMB 'B-modes' has been achieved (Hanson et al. 2013). The CMB 'B-modes' detected are due to gravitational lensing of the CMB by (primarily) dark matter, whose distribution can be traced by the distribution of galaxies on the sky. The SPIRE data were used to map the gravitational lensing material along the line of sight, then correlations were searched for between that pattern and the polarised light coming from the CMB, as measured by SPTpol. For further information and the image caption see the ESA Herschel SciTech and Space Science Portal web releases.


The Universe Explored by Herschel - Final Programme The Universe Explored by Herschel - Final list of Posters

'The Universe Explored by Herschel' symposium final programme posted. The final oral programme and the two poster sessions have been posted. There are only very minor updates to the oral programme, which contains 108 talks (28 plenary and 80 parallel) plus formal welcomes and five wrap-up talks. The posters have been divided into two sequential poster sessions with a total of 224 posters. A 'Herschel desk' will be manned during coffee breaks and poster sessions, with a 'goodies desk' and coffee nearby. There are currently ~340 registered participants, it is still possible to register to attend, the venue can accommodate maximum 400 people. For all information consult the meeting website. Welcome to the symposium!


'The Universe Explored by Herschel' symposium preliminary programme posted. The SOC has enjoyed the massive amount of abstracts submitted and has constructed the preliminary oral programme and compiled the preliminary list of posters. Everyone intending to attend the symposium is encouraged to register, the venue can accommodate maximum 400 people. Note that for all presenters (oral and poster) it is compulsory to register latest by 29 August 2013.


ESA's Herschel Project Scientist, Göran Pilbratt (left) and Spacecraft Operations Manager Micha Schmidt (right), watching final telemetry from Herschel in the Main Control Room at ESOC. Final command was sent at 12:25 GMT (14:25 CEST) on 17 June 2013. Martin Kessler, Head of ESA's Science Operations Department, sends the final command to Herschel at 12:25 GMT (14:25 CEST), 17 June 2013, from the Main Control Room at ESOC, Darmstadt.

End of Herschel spacecraft operations. A crowd of people representing ESA, the three instrument teams, and industry assembled in the main control room in ESOC, while Herschel spacecraft operations were terminated on 17 June 2013. At ~12:25 UT, as its thrusters had run out of hydrazine, the last telecommand was sent to Herschel by manual commanding, causing it to turn itself off. In the pictures above (left) Göran Pilbratt and Micha Schmidt look over the shoulders of one of the spacecraft controllers, watching the pressure in the thruster tanks gradually go down, and (right) Martin "Terminator" Kessler smiles as he prepares to send the very last telecommand. For more information see the ESOC web release, and on a YouTube movie.


Radial distribution of the fraction of the total H2 column density comprised by the CO-dark H2 gas.

Herschel discovers molecular gas not traced by CO in the Milky Way. By performing C+ (158 µm) velocity-resolved observations at about 500 line-of-sights using Herschel/HIFI (left figure), molecular gas not traced by CO emission ("CO-dark" gas) has been unveiled and mapped in the Milky Way (Pineda et al. 2013 ). The result is a major revision of the global distribution of molecular gas, the fraction of CO-dark gas increases from less than 20% in the inner Galaxy to about 80% at a galactocentric radius of 10 kpc (middle figure). On average, CO-dark molecular gas accounts for 30% of the molecular mass of the Milky Way, and outside of the Sun's distance from the Galactic Centre the CO-dark gas is dominant (right figure). For more information see the ESA Herschel SciTech web release.


The Universe Explored by Herschel - Poster

Great interest for the "The Universe Explored by Herschel" symposium! The deadline for abstract submission for the "The Universe Explored by Herschel" is just behind us. The response is overwhelming! The preliminary number (ahead of consolidation of possible duplicates etc) is a total of 358 abstracts. This can be divided into 280 requests for oral and 78 requests for poster presentations. Another division is along the five sessions: (i) galaxy formation & evolution 104, (ii) large scale gal structure & nearby galaxies 54, (iii) water, astrochemistry & ISM physics 84, (iv) star & planetary system formation & evolution 94, and (v) the solar system & its evolution 22 abstracts. All information about the meeting on can be found the LOC web site, which includes the calendar of events.


Herschel's view of the bright source HXMM01. Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Irvine Multi-wavelength view of HXMM01 (Fu et al. 2013) Multi-wavelength view of the merging galaxy pair HXMM01. Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Irvine/STScI/Keck/NRAO/SAO

Herschel suggests origin of massive 'red and dead' galaxies. A rare encounter between two large gas-rich galaxies caught in the act by Herschel (Fu et al. 2013) suggests a solution to an outstanding problem: how did massive 'red and dead' galaxies form in the early Universe? The galaxy pair was initially identified in HerMES data as a single bright source, named HXMM01. Follow-up observations showed that it is in fact two galaxies linked by bridge of gas, indicating that they are merging which has sparked a star-formation frenzy of roughly 2000 solar masses per year. The end result will be a massive 'red and dead' elliptical galaxy. The images above show the HerMES field (left), a composite (middle), and a visible & radio image of the merging galaxies (right). For more information and image captions see the ESA Herschel Space Science Portal and SciTech web releases.


Artist's impression of the Galactic Centre. Credit: ESA - C. Carreau Left panel: Radio-wavelength view of the gas at the centre of the Galaxy. Right panel: A spectroscopic view of the Galactic Centre, obtained with Herschel, shows the rich variety of molecules detected in this region. Credit: Radio-wavelength image: National Radio Astronomy Observatory/Very Large Array (Courtesy of C. Lang); Spectrum: ESA/Herschel/PACS, SPIRE/J. Goicoechea et al. (2013)

Herschel detects warm gas and complex chemistry towards Sgr A*. A supermassive (about 4 million solar masses) black hole lurks in the Galactic Centre, in the direction towards Sgr A*. Although it is currently "quiet", at a distance of ~8 kpc it is hundreds of times closer than any known active supermassive black hole. Herschel spectral maps of the region covering ~52-671 µm have now been obtained (Goicoechea et al. 2013), resolving emission from within 1 pc of the black hole. The emission is dominated by atomic fine structure lines and high-J CO lines, indicating hot molecular gas that may be infalling towards the black hole. Images above: an artist's illustration of the region around the Galactic Centre (left) and a spectrum towards the Galactic Centre (right). For more information and the full image captions see the ESA Herschel Space Science Portal and SciTech web releases.


Herschel has run dry! In the afternoon today (29 April 2013) Herschel ran out of helium! To declare end-of-helium (EoHe) a number of key temperature sensor upper limits had been defined, and with two of them attained, EoHe had formally been reached. Although Herschel is out of contact with the ground for 21 out of 24 hours, it chose to reach EoHe while in contact and increasing temperatures could be followed in real time during the DTCP. The cryogenic unit displayed rising temperatures in the helium tank, violating upper limit conditions on one key parameter today at 14:49:23 (UTC), with a second parameter confirming this at 15:20:01 (UTC), thus EoHe was declared. For more information see the ESA Press Release, the ESA Space Science Portal and the SciTech web releases.


Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts on Jupiter. Credit: Hubble Space Telescope Comet Team and NASA Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts on Jupiter. Credit: U. Hawaii Distribution of water in Jupiter's stratosphere. Credit: Water map: ESA/Herschel/T. Cavalié et al.; Jupiter image: NASA/ESA/Reta Beebe (New Mexico State University)

Herschel links stratospheric water in Jupiter to comet SL9 impacts. In July 1994 at least 21 discernible fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacted on Jupiter. Water vapour observed in Jupiter by Herschel is now linked to these impacts (Cavalié et al. 2013). PACS mapping provides the water extent over the planetary disk, while HIFI provides the vertical (pressure) profile. The observed water is located high up in the stratosphere with a clear asymmetry between the hemispheres, indicating an external isolated event as the origin. Images above: Hubble (left) and near-infrared U Hawaii (middle) images of impact sites, and Herschel water extent projected onto the planetary disk (right). For more information, images, and captions see the ESA Herschel Space Science Portal and SciTech web releases.


Starburst galaxy HFLS3. Credit: ESA/Herschel/HerMES Starburst galaxy HFLS3. Credit: ESA/Herschel/HerMES/IRAM/GTC/W.M. Keck Observatory Artist's impression of starburst galaxy HFLS3. Credit: ESA - C. Carreau

Herschel discovers a massively star forming galaxy at z=6.34. A massively star forming galaxy designated HFLS3 has been discovered by Herschel (Riechers et al. 2013). Being just one of many in one of the HerMES blank survey fields, it was selected for follow-up observations because its SPIRE fluxes increase with wavelength, thus being potentially at high redshift. The follow-up observations have provided an unambiguous redshift of 6.34, and with an inferred star formation rate in the range 1000-5000 (depending on the adopted IMF) solar masses per year at a lookback time of over 13 Gyr, it challenges galaxy formation theories. Images above: the Hermes field (left), a multi-wavelength zoom-in (middle), and an artist's impression (right). For more information and the full image captions see the ESA Herschel Space Science Portal and SciTech web releases, as well as the Caltech, UK Herschel outreach, ICL, CNRS (in French), IAC (in Spanish), and IRAM web releases.


Dust disc around Kappa Coronae Borealis. Credit: ESA/Bonsor et al. (2013)

Subgiant star with resolved debris disk and planet. Herschel/PACS observations have spatially resolved the emission from a debris disk (Bonsor et al. 2013) around the star kappa Coronae Borealis (κ CrB). This is a K-type subgiant star, an ex A-type star that has evolved away from the main sequence to the base of the giant branch. Interestingly, κ CrB has both at least one planet and a debris disk that has thus survived the entire main sequence phase of this approximately 2.5 Gyr old star. The image above shows the debris disk at 100 µm, the star itself is not visible. For more information and the full image caption see the ESA Herschel Space Science Portal and SciTech web releases.


ESA/PACS & SPIRE consortia, A. Rivera-Ingraham & P.G. Martin, Univ. Toronto, HOBYS Key Programme (F. Motte) ESA/PACS & SPIRE consortia, A. Rivera-Ingraham & P.G. Martin, Univ. Toronto, HOBYS Key Programme (F. Motte)

Massive star formation in the W3 Giant Molecular Cloud (GMC). Spectacular Herschel imaging of the W3 GMC provides new clues to how massive stars form (Rivera-Ingraham et al. 2013). For a long time the formation of massive stars (with eight solar masses or more) has presented a conundrum, as they form they make mass accretion gradually more difficult, eventually stopping further growth. Now Herschel observations hint of a way around the problem, if the formation takes place in favourable surroundings the problem can be alleviated, which is suspected to happen in W3. In the pictures above a part of the W3 GMC as imaged by Herschel in a 70, 160, and 250 µm composite. For more information and the full image captions see the ESA Herschel Space Science Portal and SciTech web releases, as well as that of U Toronto.


Image credit: NASA/ESA/ESO/JPL-Caltech/Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy Image Credit: A. M. Stutz (MPIA)

Herschel enables discovery of young protostars in Orion. Herschel/PACS imaging of an area in Orion, previously imaged by Spitzer, has led to a serendipitous discovery of young protostars (Stutz et al. 2013). Herschel revealed sources not present in shorter wavelength Spitzer imaging, thus cool objects. Follow-up by APEX/SABOCA 350 µm photometry has led to a list of 15 reliably identified new protostars, possibly the youngest yet observed. For more information with detailed captions and credits to the images above, see the MPIA and NASA newsreleases. The images show the reflection nebula M78 (NGC 2068) in Orion, left image left part a Spitzer/MIPS, Herschel/PACS, and APEX/SABOCA 24/160/350 µm composite and right part a Spitzer/IRAC and MIPS 24 µm composite, the right image shows some of the protostars and their locations.


Artist's impression of the GX 339-4 binary system. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab Herschel image at 70 µm of the GX 339-4 black-hole binary system. Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/S.Corbel et al.

Herschel targets galactic black-hole jet. Herschel has provided the first view of GX 339-4 at far-infrared wavelengths (Corbel et al. 2013). GX 339-4 is a binary system believed to harbour a >7 solar mass black hole and a low mass companion. Herschel data allows to probe the jets down to their base, where the far-infrared emission originates, allowing a better understanding of black-hole jets and of the physical processes that take place very close to a black hole. Above (left) artist's impression of the system, and (right) two epochs (25 Feb and 6 Mar 2012) at 70 µm showing strong variability. For additional information see the ESA Herschel SciTech web release.


PACS & SPIRE Cooler Recycling from OD90 to OD1390 Temperature Steps. Helium mass estimates since OD#090 Helium mass estimates (last 50 Cooler Recyclings)

Herschel about to run out of helium. The Herschel cryostat was filled up and superfluid helium was produced in Kourou in April 2009. A final helium top-up was done just a day before the 14 May 2009 launch. In July 2009, only two months after launch when Herschel had thermalised in space, the "In-Orbit Commissioning Review" took place. A lifetime prediction based on the thermal mathematical model and measured inflight temperatures was provided by industry. It predicted end-of-helium end of February 2013, but with an error bar of more than half a year. Since autumn 2011 we mainly rely on analysis (pioneered by the PACS ICC) of the helium temperature increase caused by the heat dumped by the PACS and SPIRE cryo-cooler recyclings to estimate the remaining amount of helium. Figures above, observed temperature increase as function of time (T101 and T102 are two different temperature sensors), and fits of helium mass estimates since since OD#090 and for the last 50 recyclings. The predictions for end-of-helium are stable (but are possibly affected by unquantified systematic errors) and indicate Herschel will run out of helium in the second half of March 2013. For additional information see the ESA Herschel Space Science Portal and SciTech web releases.


Cool layer in a Sun-like star

A cool Herschel discovery. The visible "surface" of the sun is called the photosphere and has a temperature of about 5800 K. In an eclipse, a red circle around the outside of the sun can sometimes be seen, this is the chromosphere, with outside it the very hot corona. The coolest layer of the sun is the lower chromosphere at around 4100 K, then temperature increases with "altitude". A similar temperature minimum has never been observed in another star. Until now! Herschel has detected the temperature minimum in sun's twin alpha Centauri A (Liseau et al. 2013). For more information see the ESA Herschel Space Science Portal web release.


Herschel's view of star-forming galaxies in the COSMOS field. Credit: ESA/Herschel/SPIRE/HerMES Key Programme Star formation rate and active galactic nuclei power. Credit: Image courtesy of Christopher Harrison, University of Durham, UK

Herschel, massive black holes, and star formation. The possible feedback between active galactic nucleii driven by massive black holes and intense star formation on galactic scales is the subject of a number of Herschel observing programmes. Ancillary data such as X-ray (Page et al. 2012) and radio (Barthel et al. 2012) data, numerical simulations, as well as large datasets (Harrison et al. 2012) are all important ingredients, as outlined in the ESA Herschel SciTech Black holes and star formation: a Herschel perspective web release. In the pictures above: The COSMOS field (left) and average star formation rates at given redshift bins are plotted against AGN activity in three fields (right). See also previous news releases Do active black holes quench massive star formation?, and Powerful black holes quench massive star formation, as well as Herschel observes molecular gas being swept away on galactic scales.


Taking HIFI to the limit. The Herschel heterodyne spectrometer HIFI covers the vast spectral range 480-1250 plus 1410-1910 GHz. It does this by employing 7 mixer bands (1-7) and 14 local oscillator (LO) subbands (1A, 1B, 2A, ..., 7B). However, a small frequency range in LO band 3B could not be optimised, because of a concern about the possibility of pushing too far and losing the entire band 3B in the process. Now, at a time when Herschel is approaching end of helium (which will force an end to all further observing), "purification" of the troublesome part of band 3B has been successfully performed, and the few but long awaited observations in this part of band 3B can be conducted. For more information see the SRON web release.


Herschel detects heavy molecular hydrogen in the protoplanetary disc around TW Hydrae. Credit: Image courtesy of E. Bergin, University of Michigan Artist's impression of the protoplanetary disc around TW Hydrae. Credit: ESA - C. Carreau

Heavy hydrogen in TW Hya disk enables improved mass determination. Protoplanetary disks are composed mainly of molecular hydrogen. However, their masses are usually estimated based on observations of trace constituents, such as dust or CO emission. Uncertainties in dust or CO abundances will then be amplified in the conversion to total mass, which in itself introduces additional uncertainty. Now, thanks to Herschel/PACS spectroscopy, heavy molecular hydrogen (HD) has been observed at 112 µm in the disk of TW Hya enabling a more direct and accurate mass determination (Bergin et al. 2013). Despite an (uncertain) age of order 10 Myr TW Hya still retains a massive gaseous disk, ~50 Jupiter masses or more is implied, capable of forming a planetary system. The images above show the HD spectrum (left) and an artist's impression of the TW Hya disk. For more information and the full image captions see the ESA Herschel SciTech and Space Science Portal web releases.


Composite colour image of the Herschel PACS images of Betelgeuse. Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/L. Decin et al Betelgeuse's enigmatic environment. Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/L. Decin et al

Betelgeuse's enigmatic circumstellar envelope and bow shock. The interaction between stellar winds and the interstellar medium can create complex bow shocks. Spectacular Herschel/PACS imaging of the environment around Betelgeuse reveals multiple arcs 6-7 arcmin away from the star itself, and the presence of a linear bar at a distance of 9 arcmin, which probably is an interstellar structure illuminated by Betelgeuse (Decin et al. 2012). See also the ESA Herschel Space Science Portal web release.


Herschel's three-colour view of asteroid Apophis. Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/MACH-11/MPE/B.Altieri (ESAC) and C. Kiss (Konkoly Observatory)

Herschel images near-earth-object Apophis. Herschel has observed the asteroid 99942 Apophis at a distance of about 0.1 AU. By performing PACS photometry Herschel has obtained the first thermal imaging of this near-earth-object. The data have enabled new determinations of the its size, up from 270 ± 60 to 325 ± 15 m, and albedo, down from 0.33 to 0.23. These measurements play a key role for the physical characterisation of Apophis, and may contribute to improving the accuracy of long-term predictions of its orbit. For more information and the full image caption see the ESA Herschel Space Science Portal web release.



Herschel spacecraft will be "parked" in heliocentric orbit. The Herschel operational large halo orbit around L2 is unstable, and thus needs regular maintenance. Consequently, after end-of-helium (expected in March 2013), the spacecraft will need to be "parked" somewhere else with no need of orbit maintenance (sometimes referred to as "disposal" or "de-orbiting"). The baseline has been to put the spacecraft in heliocentric orbit. In June 2012 an international consortium of scientists proposed to ESA to use the spacecraft to perform a controlled impact in a suitable crater near one of the lunar poles to study the impact debris, in particular volatiles. This proposal has been studied for feasibility, assessed scientifically by the ESA Advisory Structure (SSEWG and SSAC), and scoped financially. The lunar impact option is feasible, but carries an additional cost on top of that of the heliocentric orbit option. The ESA Executive has decided that the Herschel spacecraft will be "parked" indefinitely in heliocentric orbit.


Outcome of Hubble Deep Field Initiative 2012. In a Helpdesk mailing on 27 July 2012 information was provided about a new STScI initiative regarding possible future additional Hubble Deep Fields. The mailing also solicited comments and input by interested individuals/groups in the Herschel community to participate in the formulation of the science case in general, and for a possible TBD Herschel participation in particular. The outcome of the initiative has now been posted on the HST Frontier Fields webpage, with a link to the HDFI_SWGReport2012. No request for associated new Herschel DDT observations has been submitted.


A new census of starburst galaxies across the Universe. Credits: ESA - C. Carreau/C. Casey (University of Hawaii); COSMOS field: ESA/Herschel/SPIRE/HerMES Key Programme; Hubble images: NASA, ESA

Almost 800 spectroscopic redshifts obtained for HerMES galaxies. Herschel and Keck have joined forces to study the contribution of HerMES-selected galaxies to the star formation history of the universe. The 1593 targets observed by Keck I and II provided 767 spectroscopically confirmed redshifts, 731 with z<2 and 36 (~5%) with 2<z<5, with an overall peak at z~0.85. It is concluded (Casey et al. 2012a and 2012b) that these infrared-luminous galaxies contribute about half of the cosmic star formation rate density across a wide range of epochs, particularly for redshifts z up to ~2 (lookback time up to ~10 Gyr). The illustration above shows the distribution of nearly 300 galaxies from the COSMOS field as function of lookback time. For more information and the full image caption see the ESA Herschel SciTech and Space Science Portal web releases.


The debris disc around Gliese 581 seen by Herschel. Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/Jean-François Lestrade, Observatoire de Paris, France The debris disc around 61 Virginis seen by Herschel. Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/Mark Wyatt, University of Cambridge, UK

Massive debris disks and exo-planetary systems. Herschel observations by the DEBRIS consortium have found massive debris disks around the M3 GJ581 (Lestrade et al. 2012) and the G5V 61Vir (Wyatt et al. 2012) stars. Both are very nearby (6.4 pc and 8.5 pc, respectively) and the debris disks are resolved, the illustrations above show artist's impressions overlaid on Herschel images of GJ581 (left) and 61Vir (right). Both stars have in common that they have low-mass planets well inside debris disks with high fractional luminosities, and lack massive planets altogether. For more information and the full image captions see the ESA Herschel SciTech and Space Science Portal web releases.


"Must-Do" Programmes posted. The outcome of the "Must-Do" process has been published on the "Must-Do" Programmes webpage and circulated through a Helpdesk mailing. The first "Must-Do" observations were executed in OD#1236 (on 1 October 2012). Thanks to all the contributors!


Herschel's infrared view of part of the Taurus Molecular Cloud. Credits: ESA/Herschel/SPIRE Close-up of L1544 with the water spectrum seen by Herschel. Credits: ESA/Herschel/SPIRE/HIFI/Caselli et al.

Herschel makes first detection of water vapour in a prestellar core. The unique capabilities provided by Herschel/HIFI has enabled the detection of water vapour in the prestellar core L1544 (Caselli et al. 2012). The 557 GHz water line was observed for a total of 13.6 hr, and shows an inverse P-Cygni profile, characteristic of gravitational contraction. The total mass of water vapour in L1544, which is on the verge of collapsing, is ~2000 Earth oceans, while a much larger reservoir of about 3 million Earth ocean masses of water ice is inferred, based on chemical models. The water vapour in the dense and cold center of L1544 is produced by energetic particles colliding with molecular hydrogen producing a faint glow of ultraviolet light, illuminating icy dust mantles and liberating water molecules, maintaining water vapour at the level detected by Herschel. Figures above, (left) a three-colour Herschel/SPIRE (250, 250, and 500 µm) composite of a region of the Taurus molecular cloud with L1544 towards lower left, and (right) the water line displayed on top of the background indicating its origin. For more information see the ESA Space Science Portal web release.


Photometry and spectroscopy of β Pictois Diagram demonstrating the dependence of the 69-μm band on grain temperature and compositio. Meteroid Olivine crystals. Copyright: J. Debosscher, KU Leuven

Pristine olivine found in β Pictoris debris disk. Herschel has identified crystalline material in the β Pictoris debris disk that matches pristine cometary material (de Vries et al. 2012). Olivine crystallizes out of protoplanetary disk material, and can be incorporated into planetesimals and planets. The magnesium-rich 'flavour' found around β Pictoris is associated with small primitive 'unprocessed' bodies in our own solar system. The identification was made by Herschel/PACS spectroscopy of the olivine 69 µm band, whose line properties depend on both composition and temperature. Figures above show photometry and spectroscopy of β Pictoris (left), 69 µm band properties as function of temperature and composition (middle), and olivine crystals in a meteorite (right). For more information see the ESA SciTech and Space Science Portal web releases.


Artist's impression of a radio galaxy (Credit: ESA/NASA/RUG/MarcelZinger) The infrared-submm Spectral Energy Distributions (SEDs) of 3C368, 3C068.2, and 3C257
Do active black holes quench massive star formation? A recent study (Barthel et al. 2012) reveals vigorous optically obscured star-formation in the ultra-massive hosts of three archetypical powerful 3C quasars and radio galaxies, part of a larger sample of radio selected active galaxies observed by Herschel. It is argued that this symbiotic occurrence of star-formation and black hole driven activity is in marked contrast to recent results dealing with Herschel observations of X-ray selected active galaxies, as opposed to radio selected sources. In the figures above artist's impression of a radio galaxy (left) and three SEDs (right). For more information see the SRON web release.


"Must-Do" process community involvement update. The invitation to the community to participate in the "Must-Do" process by providing suggestions has resulted in a preliminary number of 58 suggestions received. Thanks to all the contributors! For current status see Herschel Science Centre e-News #22


Herschel displays how massive stars sculpt their surroundings. The formation of massive O and B stars has a profound impact on their environment, as shown in a number of stunning Herschel images (PACS 70/160 um (blue/green), and SPIRE 250 um (red)). These mighty stars, which infuse their surroundings with powerful winds and large amounts of ionising radiation, not only contribute to the shaping of their surrounding nebula's appearance, but also have a significant impact on the star formation activity that takes place within it. In the striking image of the Carina Nebula (left) more than a hundred massive stars are present creating an intricate network of clouds that make up this cosmic nursery where thousands of stars are being formed, providing an amazing sight (Preibisch et al. 2012). For more information and full image captions see the ESA Herschel Space Science Portal and SciTech web releases. Cygnus-X (middle) is another site of massive star formation (Hennemann et al. 2012), including the Cygnus OB2 association which hosts thousands of stars, and the famous swan (right). For more information and full image captions see the ESA Herschel Space Science Portal and SciTech web releases.


"Must-Do" observations - potential important missing Herschel science? In early 2013 Herschel will run out of helium cryogen, and all observing will come to an end. After Herschel there will be no similar observing capability available for the foreseeable future. It is therefore prudent to ask the question whether - for any reason - there is even a remote possibility that observations that "must" be done by Herschel have been "missed out". An activity to identify these hypothetical observations, should they exist has now been initiated. Community involvement is invited!


Chandra Deep Field North. Copyright: ESA/Herschel/HerMES ; NASA/CXS Star formation rate as a function of X-ray brightness for a sample of high-redshift galaxies. Copyright: Image courtesy of Mathew Page, Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UK Artist's impression of galactic outflows. Copyright: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt

Powerful black holes quench massive star formation. Combining Herschel and Chandra observations of galaxies with redshifts in the range z=1-3 in the Chandra Deep Field North (CDF-N) Page et al. (2012) have demonstrated that the most vigorous star formation is not observed around black holes with an X-ray luminosity above 1044 ergs per second. Using Herschel/SPIRE flux as a measure of star formation rate and Chandra X-ray flux for AGN activity, it is shown that there is a correlation between the two, but for the highest X-ray fluxes the star formation is quenched. Suppression of star formation in the host galaxy of a powerful AGN is a key prediction of models in which the AGN drives an outflow expelling the interstellar medium of its host a brief period of cosmic time. In the images above: Herschel image of CDF-N with X-ray emission overlaid in blue (left), star formation rate as a function of X-ray emission (middle), and an artist's impression of galactic outflows (right). For more information and full image captions see the ESA Herschel SciTech, the UK Herschel outreach, and the NASA Herschel web releases. See also Herschel observes molecular gas being swept away on galactic scales and Do active black holes quench massive star formation?


The infrared SED of the Fomalhaut system. Herschel PACS 70 μm image of Fomalhaut Cut through the Herschel/PACS images along the belt's major axis on the sky

Fomalhaut as imaged by Herschel! Fomalhaut, one of the original 'fab four' and most well-studied 'infrared excess' main-sequence stars, has been imaged by Herschel (Acke et al. 2012). The five Herschel images (covering 70 to 500 µm) resolve the system, the most prominent feature is the main belt outside of 130 AU. Dynamical modelling using a three component model with radiative-transfer tools reveals a very active system of 'fluffy' aggregates of grains, that needs to be sustained by the grinding down of the equivalent of 2000 1 km-sized comets every day. The images above from left to right show the Fomalhaut SED, the 70 µm image, and a cut through the belt along the major axis. For more information and full image captions see the ESA SciTech and Space Science Portal web releases.


Centaurus A (NGC 5128) Copyright: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/C.D. Wilson, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada Centaurus A (NGC 5128) Copyright: ESA/XMM-Newton Composite image of Centaurus A

A multi-wavelength view of Centaurus A. Herschel (Auld et al. 2012), XMM-Newton, and optical data on Centaurus A (NGC5128), the closest giant elliptical galaxy containing a radio-loud AGN, have been combined providing an interesting view. Above the Herschel, XMM-Newton, and combined images. For more information and full image captions see the ESA SciTech and Space Science Portal web releases, with images and a movie.


Artist's impression of the brown dwarf 2M1207. Credit: ESA

Herschel studies brown dwarf disk and companion. Herschel has obtained the first submillimetre observations of the brown dwarf 2M1207 system (Riaz et al. 2012). It is part of the TW Hya association, and consists of a ~25 MJup primary with a ~5 MJup secondary, and a disk with a few Jupiter masses. Based on their nature, the large separation between the primary and secondary, and the age of the system, it is argued that the companion cannot have formed through core accretion. Disc fragmentation is a possible formation scenario. For more information and full image caption see the ESA SciTech web release. Note: The submillimetre flux reported from the (disk around the) brown dwarf is now attributed to a source misidentification, an erratum is being published.

Herschel commencing its 'Millenium OD'! Today 7 February 2012 Herschel is commencing its 1000th Operational Day (OD), tomorrow 8 February 2012 at 13:12 UT it will be exactly 1000 days since lift-off in Kourou. The present best estimate of the remaining cryogen lifetime predicts that Herschel will be performing science observations until approximately February 2013.


Heterodyne Instrument For the Infrared (HIFI) Heterodyne Instrument For the Infrared (HIFI) Thijs de Graauw Heterodyne Instrument For the Infrared (HIFI)

Thijs de Graauw awarded AAS prize. At its 219th meeting the American Astronomical Society (AAS) awarded the 2012 Joseph Weber Award for instrumentation to Thijs de Graauw, now the Director of ALMA but until 2008 the HIFI PI. The prize was awarded for "his leadership in the construction of powerful new astronomical instruments including the Short Wavelength Spectrometer on the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) and the Heterodyne Instrument For the Infrared (HIFI) on Herschel." In the pictures above the HIFI FPU in SRON in 2006, Thijs at the Toucan viewing site in Kourou just before the launch of Herschel, and HIFI integrated on the optical bench in July 2007.


The Eagle Nebula (M16) as seen by Herschel. The Eagle Nebula (M16) as seen by XMM-Newton The Eagle Nebula (M16) as seen by Herschel and XMM-Newton

The iconic M16 'Eagle Nebula' in new light! Herschel and XMM-Newton have teamed up to provide a new look at the M16 'Eagle Nebula' and its 'Pillars of Creation' made iconic by Hubble in 1996. In the images above from left to right we see M16 as imaged by Herschel in a 70, 160, and 250 µm composite image, as imaged by XMM-Newton, and the Herschel and XMM-Newton images combined, giving an unprecedented new view of the nebula. For more information and full image captions see the ESA SciTech and Space Science Portal web releases, as well as the BBC News and UK Herschel outreach postings.

News Archive:

2011 - observing in full swing (continued)
2010 - observing in full swing
2009 - launch and early inflight operations
2008 - integration and verification
2007 - hardware deliveries and KP AO
2006 - qualification tests
2005 - STM integration and verification
2004 and earlier

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