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Herschel hits the airwaves

11 November 2009

Herschel Image

A leading University scientist whose research helped create one of the most powerful and ambitious astronomical satellites ever made will feature in a two-part Radio 4 programme.

The Herschel Space Telescope is a two-part series to be aired on Radio 4 on Wednesday 18th November, 11:00-11:30am and Wednesday 25th November, 11:00-11:30am. BBC science reporter Jonathan Amos follows the engineers and scientists working on the SPIRE instrument for the European Space Agency’s Herschel satellite. Herschel is one of the most important missions in the history of European spaceflight and was launched successfully on May 14 this year.

The SPIRE instrument was built by an international team led by Professor Matt Griffin, School of Physics and Astronomy. The programme tells the story of the UK SPIRE team, including several members from Cardiff, as they prepared for the launch of Herschel and as the first results came in.

As well as Professor Griffin, other members of staff in the School of Physics and Astronomy who contributed to the project are also featured. They include: Professor Steve Eales, Dr Jon Davies, Dr Kate Isaak, and Dr Pete Hargrave as well as post-doctoral researchers Dr Jason Kirk, Dr Michael Pohlen, and Dr Luca Cortese.

Herschel carries the biggest telescope ever sent to space and is already giving astronomers their best view yet of the Universe at far-infrared and sub-millimetre wavelengths. It can peer through obscuring clouds of dust to look at the early stages of star birth and galaxy formation; it can examine the composition and chemistry of comets and planetary atmospheres in the Solar System; and it is able to study the star-dust ejected by dying stars into interstellar space which form the raw material for planets like the Earth.

Professor Griffin said: "With its big telescope and sophisticated and sensitive instruments, including SPIRE, Herschel is a very powerful observatory for many studies from our own solar system to the most distant galaxies. Already we can see that its results will reveal how stars like the Sun are forming in our own galaxy today, how planetary systems can develop from the dust and gas around young stars, and how the galaxies grew and evolved over cosmic time.

"Astronomers from Cardiff are at the forefront in making these exciting scientific discoveries – we are delighted that the work of Cardiff scientists will be featured in such an important radio programme."

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