Spectacular first observations with Herschel!

Only one day after the cover was opened on Herschel, the PACS camera made some trial observations, just to have a quick first look without even trying to set up the instrument. The results were spectacular!

“These amazing images, produced on the very first observing day without any time spent yet to set up or perfect the system, show how well the observatory is working.  They give us a foretaste of the great science that Herschel will do”, said Professor Matt Griffin, the Principal Investigator of the SPIRE instrument, companion instrument to PACS.

The telescope was trained on the Whirlpool galaxy, a spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way galaxy, but seen face-on. PACS took images in three infrared colours, producing a beautiful image of the galaxy in the far infrared part of the spectrum, easily the best far-infrared astronomy image ever made. The image was unveiled today at the Paris Airshow.

Professor Walter Gear, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University, and part of the Herschel-SPIRE team said, “These images are stunning ! And once the instruments have been fully optimised we can expect them to get even better. Herschel has demonstrated that it will indeed deliver the breakthrough science that it promised. I can’t wait for the scientific operations to start in earnest! “

“I haven’t stopped smiling since Herschel was launched and we turned on the instruments, and now finally we have the first images showing the telescope in focus and our sister instrument taking beautiful pictures – I keep having to pinch myself to know that this is real!” said SPIRE instrument scientist, Professor Bruce Swinyard.

Postgraduate student Rob Simpson created this movie to show the stunning details Herschel PACS has revealed, comparing the far-infrared galaxy with visible images.