Europees Ruimtevaart Agentschap lanceert nieuwe telescoop (en)

Met dank overgenomen van EUobserver (EUOBSERVER) i, gepubliceerd op vrijdag 15 mei 2009, 9:24.

The European Space Agency on Thursday launched a telescope and spacecraft on a mission set to explore the creation of the universe.

Herschel, the biggest telescope launched in history, is to study electromagnetic waves, dust clouds and planet-forming discs around stars, as well ice particles.

The data collected could help answer questions such as what the universe is made of, how it has evolved and the rate at which it is expanding.

The Planck spacecraft will gather data on remaining radiation from the Big Bang, the massive cosmological explosion that led to the formation of stars and planets.

Both blasted off on an Ariane rocket from Kourou, Europe's launching pad in French Guiana. They will spend the next two to three months making their way to observation positions some 1.5 million kilometres from Earth on its "night side".

"Herschel and Planck will enable us to go very far back in time, to the origins of our Universe and it is only by better understanding our Universe's overall past that we can help to better define the future of our planet," the ESA's director general, Jean-Jacques Dordain said.

The craft will stay in orbit for 21 months, while the telescope will gather data on the formation of planets for up to three years.

Their combined programmes cost €1.9 billion - the greatest amount ESA's science division had ever put on a single rocket.

Herschel and Planck were developed after 20 years of research by an industrial team led by France's Thales Alenia and including over 100 contractors from 15 countries in Europe and the United States.

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