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.

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Moon crash for space telescope?

The fate of a telescope designed and partly created by Cardiff scientists is currently being debated.