Astronomy Today

Infrared Space Telescopes

What is the Herschel Space Observatory?

The European Space Agency named its pioneering infrared space telescope in honor of the influential Herschel family of eighteenth–and nineteenth–century astronomers, and in particular of William Herschel (1738–1922), the discoverer of the planet Uranus and the first astronomer to measure infrared radiation from the Sun. This mission, launched together with the Planck mission in 2009, and conducted science observations at the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point until 2013. Herschel’s 138-inch (3.5-meter) diameter primary mirror had twice the collecting area of the Hubble Space Telescope. The telescope was designed to observe mid-infrared, far-infrared, and even short-microwave radiation emitted from cosmic sources.


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