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G. L. Pilbratt (European Space Agency)
The Herschel Space Observatory is the fourth cornerstone mission in the European Space Agency (ESA) science programme. It will perform imaging photometry and spectroscopy in the far infrared and submillimetre part of the spectrum, covering approximately the 55-650 micron range.
The key science objectives emphasize current questions connected to the formation and evolution of galaxies, stars, and our own planetary system. However, Herschel will offer unique observing capabilities available to the entire astronomical community.
Herschel will carry a 3.5 metre diameter passively cooled telescope. The science payload complement - two cameras/medium resolution spectrometers (PACS and SPIRE) and a very high resolution heterodyne spectrometer (HIFI) - will be housed in a superfluid helium cryostat. The ground segment will be jointly developed by the ESA, the three instrument teams, and NASA/IPAC.
Once operational in orbit around L2 sometime in 2008, Herschel will offer a minimum of 3 years of routine observations; roughly 2/3 of the available observing time is open to the general astronomical community through a standard competitive proposal procedure.
I will report on the current implementation status of the various elements that together make up the Herschel mission, introduce the mission from the perspective of the prospective user of this major facility, and describe the plans for announcing observing opportunities.
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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #4
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.