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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Stare into the curve...

... of Herschel's mirror  -- source --
It is enchanting, spectacular and - at 3.5m in diameter - it will
soon become the biggest telescope mirror in space, surpassing that of
Hubble.

The great 18th Century astronomer William Herschel would have been astonished by the silver sensation that now bears his name.


The European Space Agency (Esa) is certainly very proud of its new
observatory. It has been working on the venture for more than 20 years.

"The mirror is an enormous piece of hardware," enthused Thomas
Passvogel, Esa's programme manager on the Herschel space observatory.

"It's a ceramic mirror; it's the biggest piece ever made from
silicon carbide. It's very hard but much, much lighter than glass and
the performance is excellent."

This week, the finished observatory will be flown to Europe's
Kourou spaceport in South America. There, it will be bolted to an
Ariane rocket and hurled into orbit.


The design keeps Herschel's critical detectors in an ultra-cold state.

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