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Telescope carrying Cardiff instrument is turned off

Herschel's instruments were cooled with liquid Helium which is now exhausted

Credit: ESA/PACS & SPIRE Consortia, T. Hill, F. Motte, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/IRFU – CNRS/INSU – Uni. Paris Diderot, HOBYS Key Programme Consortium

The Herschel space telescope, which carries the SPIRE instrument built with expertise from Cardiff, has been switched off.

It was launched in 2009 and SPIRE, along with two other instruments and a massive mirror, made it the most powerful infrared observatory ever built.

Herschel has produced some stunning images: Horsehead Nebula

Credits: ESA/Herschel/PACS, SPIRE/N. Schneider, Ph. André, V. Könyves (CEA Saclay, France) for the “Gould Belt survey” Key Programme

Cardiff University astronomers led the international team that designed, built and operated SPIRE. There are still years of data to be examined.

It is helping astronomers understand how the Universe came to be what it is today.

The 7m long telescope is being "parked" in a safe orbit.

Herschel runs out of coolant

Herschel's finished its mission Credit: ESA and SPIRE & PACS consortia, Ph. André (CEA Saclay) for Gould’s Belt Key Programme Consortia

Scientists say a Cardiff instrument on Europe's Herschel Space Observatory has finished its operations and the spacecraft has exhausted its supply of liquid helium coolant.

Cardiff University astronomers led the international team that designed, built and operated the SPIRE instrument.

The University says using SPIRE data, astronomers have already made ground-breaking discoveries.

The European Space Agency says on Sunday it starts a long series of technology tests that will last into June.

And there's still far more to come from its huge archive of data.


Cardiff scientists await 50,000th telescope observation

The Herschel telescope is due to make its 50,000th successful observation today. Scientists at Cardiff University have helped to design the telescope.

A number of members of the School of Physics and Astronomy are also involved in the analysis and interpretation of the data sent back from Herschel.

Herschel is the largest astronomical telescope ever launched. It also has the largest mirror ever made, a 3.5 m-diameter primary mirror, which is giving astronomers their best ever view of the Universe at far-infrared and submillimetre wavelengths.

Scientists hope the telescope, which launched in 2009, will give a greater understanding of the origins of the solar system. It is orbiting a point in space 1.5million km from Earth and is coming to the end of its life.

Matt Griffin, from Cardiff University, says the telescope's likely to end it's journey in March next year. After that it will either need to be parked safely in orbit so as not to come into contact with the earth, or another option is to crash it into the moon in a controlled way.

If it's crashed into the moon then the impact can be observed by another satellite, and by earth, and further discoveries could be made.