Herschel can see!

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The Herschel Space Observatory, launched last month, achieved an important milestone this morning when the command to fire the bolts holding down the cryocover appears to have been executed successfully. The cover has been protecting the three science instruments from being contaminated during (and shortly after) launch. If this had failed the telescope would be blind (known in the trade as a ‘single point failure’), making it a tense moment for everyone involved in the project! There’s still a lot of work to be done in commissioning and testing though until the telescope can start its routine operations, but this is a very important step on the way.

There’s a neat video on youtube which shows what would have happened in slow motion.



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