Archive for December, 2009
17 Dec 2009
A bigger venue now, for the first scientific results from the Herschel Space Observatory. Not sure how much I can reveal right now (the presentations will be uploaded after the conference, and I think they might be embargoed until then) but the photo above gives you the general idea. In the corner you can just about see the figure of Göran Pilbratt, the Herschel Project Scientist (who refused to stand still for the 8-second exposure), and on the screen he is dazzling us with an overview of the mission.
However, some results were revealed yesterday at a press briefing, and here they are...
14 Dec 2009
Day 1 of the Herschel Science Demonstration Phase Data Processing Workshop. Until Wednesday we will be based at ESAC, some 20 miles or so outside Madrid (map here). In the photo (click to enlarge) you can see ISO, Herschel's predecessor, at the left (well, a scale model of it!), and the ruins of a 15th Century castle at the right.
Today: update on the status of the mission, the instruments and the data processing software. This afternoon we'll be demonstrating the SPIRE photometry pipeline and I'll be rounding the day off with a brief demonstration of the point source extraction tool. If that made no sense to you, here's a layman's description: Herschel makes pictures of thousands of distant galaxies where each galaxy looks like a blob, and the tool automatically spots the blobs and measures how bright they are. And by spotting, counting and measuring blobs, we can learn about how stars formed in the early Universe. Exciting stuff!
12 Dec 2009
Just back from a week at RAL developing software related to the Herschel Space Observatory. I'll be off again tomorrow, this time to Madrid for a big Herschel conference hosted by ESA(C), where a bunch (a galaxy?) of astronomers will get together to share their brand-new expertise in analysing the brand-new Herschel data (from Monday-Wednesday) before the really exciting bit (Thursday and Friday), when the initial (tentative!) results from the science teams will be presented to the world.
I may post some updates during the week, and I'm sure there will be plenty on the Herschel blog, but for now here are a couple of pictures from a visit to Madrid last December, when I discovered the joys of photo stitching (with Hugin).
First, here's the Madrid Atocha railway station (spot the trains):
And here's the Puerto del Sol: