March 9, 2017

Events Archive

2014 events

09/8-09/12/2014: "Galactic and Extragalactic Star Formation" Conference, September 8 to 12, 2014 at the congress center "Palais du Pharo" in Marseille, France

The conference will focus on observational and computational star formation in the Milky Way and external galaxies, emphasizing the link between these fields. The first aim of this meeting is to bring together the Galactic and Extragalactic communities to exchange new results and discuss the perspectives offered by rich existing and forthcoming facilities such as Herschel, Spitzer, Sofia, JWST, as well as radio-telescopes and interferometers such as ALMA, EVLA and the future NOEMA and SKA. The second aim of the conference is to confront the latest results regarding analytical models and simulations to detailed observations of clouds and star formation in the Milky Way and other galaxies.

The conference is organized by Annie Zavagno (LAM) & Michel Rouzé (CNES)

Scientific Advising Committee
Frédérique Motte (CEA/AIM Paris-Saclay) (chair)
Frank Bigiel (Zentrum für Astronomie Heidelberg) (co-chair)
Alberto Bolatto (University of Maryland)
Samuel Boissier (LAM Marseille)
Sylvain Bontemps (Université de Bordeaux)
Françoise Combes (Observatoire de Paris)
Clare Dobbs (University of Exeter)
Neal J. Evans II (University of Texas)
Ralf Klessen (Zentrum für Astronomie Heidelberg)
Sergio Molinari (IAPS-INAF Rome)
Nicola Schneider (Université de Bordeaux)

More information on

Related activity: Explornova360 Exposition.

2013 events

11/25/2013: Herschel Mission Incredible

This animation shows the timeline of over 37 000 scientific observations made by ESA's Herschel space observatory throughout its entire mission, condensed into less than a minute.

The animation was prepared by Pedro Gómez-Alvarez in the Herschel Science Centre and presented by Herschel's Project Scientist Göran Pilbratt during the opening session of The Universe Explored by Herschel symposium held at ESA's ESTEC facility, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, last month.

The animation runs from launch, on 14 May 2009, until the infrared observatory made its last observation on 29 April 2013.

Watch ESA's Herschel mission make over 37 000 science observations in less than a minute
© ESA & P. Gómez-Alvarez / music: B. Lynne

Read the complete news on ESA's website

10/2013: 3rd publication from Sciences & Avenir: "Quand les télescopes Planck et Herschel travaillent de concert"

3rd publication from the web site Science & Avenir (in French)

10/2013: Herschel: assessment of the scientific results of the space observatory

Nearly 350 scientists of the European Space Observatory Herschel met in Noordwijk (Netherlands) in October from 15th to 18th for a symposium during which the last discoveries of the mission were announced. The data collected until April 29, 2013, date of the end of Herschel mission, will be analysed over several years, but new results were already presented during this event.

Herschel, sent at over one million kilometer from the Earth, observed during nearly 4 years the birth of stars, the dynamics of the matter of the Universe, and established a comparative of galaxies near and far away.

The symposium, was organized at ESTEC, the ESA space and technological research center. Scientists announced new discoveries of the space observatory, about the water in the Solar System, the mechanisms of the formation of massive stars or the structure of the galaxies...

Read the complete news on the INSU website (in French).
See the presented results on website (in French)

Read also the article "Les étoiles naissent en grappes dans des filaments" (in French)

06/2013: Herschel on heliocentric orbit

At 15:20:01 UT on 29 April 2013, temperatures in the Herschel cryostat passed the thresholds set for establishing "End-of-Helium" - and the in-orbit science mission of Herschel came to an end. On 13-14 May, in a long delta-v manoeuvre, the spacecraft was propelled into a heliocentric orbit from which no return into the Earth-Moon system is projected in simulations extending 300 years into the future.

From early May into June, post-Helium engineering testing and wrap-up activities are being conducted with the spacecraft and the instrument electronics. A final thruster burn will be performed in mid June to exhaust any residual fuel in the propellant tanks, and other measures will be taken to completely passivate the spacecraft.

04/29/2013: Observation gives way to examination as Herschel coolant runs out

The Herschel space observatory has exhausted its supply of liquid helium, after more than three years of observations and revelations about how galaxies, stars, and planets form and evolve. Ground-breaking discoveries are in store for years to come.

 ESA and SPIRE & PACS consortia, Ph. André (CEA Saclay) for Gould's Belt Key Programme Consortia
ESA's Herschel space observatory set against a background image of stellar nursery W40, 1000 light-years away in the constellation Aquila.
W40 is about 25 light-years across. It is a vast cloud of hydrogen gas, illuminated by the radiation streaming out from at least three young massive stars embedded in the cloud. About six hundred newly forming stars are crowded into these colourful filaments of dust.
The background image was created from observations by Herschel's PACS and SPIRE instruments.
Credits: ESA and SPIRE & PACS consortia, Ph. André (CEA Saclay) for Gould's Belt Key Programme Consortia

The liquid helium coolant that enabled instruments on board the Herschel space observatory to collect extraordinary images and spectra has finally run out. Launched in 2009, the ESA mission collected unprecedented data of the cool as well as of the distant Universe. Herschel's observations have exceeded expectations, enabling scientists to learn more about how stars form, about the rates of star formation in galaxies across the cosmos, and about the origin and presence of water in different celestial bodies. While observations have come to an end and the spacecraft is to be propelled to a stable parking orbit around the Sun, where it will remain indefinitely, the science mission will continue for several years with many discoveries still to be made in the treasure trove of images and spectra collected by the observatory.

Read the complete news on ESA's website.

03/2013: Herschel to finish observing soon

ESA's Herschel space observatory is expected to exhaust its supply of liquid helium coolant in the coming weeks after spending more than three exciting years studying the cool Universe. Herschel was launched on 14 May 2009.

A pioneering mission, it is the first to cover the entire wavelength range from the far-infrared to submillimetre, making it possible to study previously invisible cool regions of gas and dust in the cosmos, and providing new insights into the origin and evolution of stars and galaxies.

In order to make such sensitive far-infrared observations, the detectors of the three science instruments - two cameras/imaging spectrometers and a very high-resolution spectrometer - must be cooled to a frigid -271°C, close to absolute zero. They sit on top of a tank filled with superfluid liquid helium, inside a giant thermos flask known as a cryostat.

The superfluid helium evaporates over time, gradually emptying the tank and determining Herschel's scientific life. At launch, the cryostat was filled to the brim with over 2300 litres of liquid helium, weighing 335 kg, for 3.5 years of operations in space.

Read the complete news on ESA's website

2012 events

12/21/2012: Your Help Needed: Find Holes in Cosmic Clouds

Professor Derek Ward-Thompson has been joined by astronomers who use Europe's Herschel Space Observatory and they are asking the public to help find holes in the dust clouds that are threaded through our galaxy. By looking at the images from Herschel, combined with those from NASA's Spitzer satellite, members of the public are invited to join the science effort by helping to distinguish between dense clumps of cold dust and holes in the dusty clouds that are threaded through our galaxy. Dust clouds don't come in simple shapes, and so the process of distinguishing between dark clouds and holes is incredibly difficult to do. Luckily, the ideal tool is at hand: the human eye.

The initiative is part of the Milky Way Project, which launched two years ago and, through the efforts of over 40,000 volunteers, has already created astronomy's largest catalogue of star-forming bubbles, as well as a plethora of nearby star clusters, distant galaxies and more. The Milky Way Project volunteers are excellent at measuring and mapping our galaxy. You can join this scientific quest on the site:, in which a tutorial shows how to tell the difference between a hole and a cloud.

 ESA/Herschel-SPIRE/S. Molinari et al.
This Herschel image shows a hole in a Milky Way dust cloud.
CREDIT: ESA/Herschel-SPIRE/S. Molinari et al.

03/21/2012: Public conference "The sky seen by Herschel, From the planets origin to the nature of our Universe" within the scope of the colloquium "From Atoms to Pebbles: Herschel Symposium in Grenoble" jointly organized by CNES and IPAG (UJF/CNRS)

This event is scheduled for Wednesday March 21st from 20h00, at Office de Tourisme de Grenoble conference room downtown.


  • The formation of stars and planets, Anne-Marie-Lagrange, DR CNRS, IPAG (UJF/CNRS)
  • Results of Herschel satellite: from the Solar System to the border of the Universe, Marc Sauvage, astrophysicist at CEA Saclay
  • The Universe: what is space and time? Marc Lachièze-Rey, DR CNRS, APC (Paris VII/CNRS)

These interventions are followed by a cocktail offered to everybody.
Free access

03/20-03/23/2012: Colloquium "From Atoms to Pebbles: Herschel Symposium in Grenoble" jointly organized by CNES and IPAG (UJF/CNRS)

For more information, please consult the dedicated website:

2011 events

03/2011: HIFI recovered from cosmic ray hit!

HIFI, one of the three scientific instruments on ESA's Herschel Space Observatory, has taken a hit by a cosmic ray particle in a critical area again. On Monday 28 February a particle presumably hit the electronics of the instrument, which brought HIFI observations to a full stop. However, after switching HIFI off and then on again the instrument came back online. HIFI will now be able to continue its highly successful quest for carbon and water in gas clouds, which sheds new light on the birth and early development of stars and planets.

Read the complete press release

2010 events

07/19/2010: Publication of a special issue of "Astronomy & Astrophysics" dedicated to Herschel's first scientific results.

These results are published one year after Herschel launch.

More details, in the ESA's article,
and on the review website Astronomy & Astrophysics

05/10/2010: Herschel space telescope delivered its first harvest of scientific results

One year after the launch of the European satellite Herschel, a first scientific assessment workshop of the mission was organized from May 4th to 7th, by the European space agency in ESTEC, Netherlands.

These results will be published soon, first on line on Internet, and then running autumn 2010, in a special issue of the Astronomy & Astrophysics review.

For more details, read the article on CNES website (in French)
ESA's article

05/04-05/07/2010: Herschel First Results Symposium at ESA ESTEC

Registration for the Herschel First Results Symposium has opened:
The meeting will take place on 4-7 May 2010, in ESTEC Conference Centre, Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

This meeting is the first major scientific symposium presenting Herschel scientific results.

For more details please visit:

03/05/2010: Herschel HIFI is now in Routine phase for some observation modes

HIFI spectrum of water and organics in the Orion Nebula
HIFI spectrum of water and organics in the Orion Nebula
Credit: ESA, HEXOS and the HIFI consortium

The spectrum, one of the first to be obtained with HIFI since it returned to full health in January 2010 following technical difficulties, clearly demonstrates that the instrument is working well. Striking features in the HIFI spectrum include a rich, dense pattern of "spikes", each representing the emission of light from a specific molecule in the Orion Nebula. This nebula is known to be one of the most prolific chemical factories in space, although the full extent of its chemistry and the pathways for molecule formation are not well understood. By sifting through the pattern of spikes in this spectrum, astronomers have identified a few common molecules that appear everywhere in the spectrum. The identification of the many other emission lines is currently ongoing.

For more details please visit:

02/25/2010: CNES, CEA and INSU created an HERSCHEL FRANCE website

The main purpose of this French scientific website, for wide audience, is to present and explain the results of importance of Herschel mission, and more particularly those from French scientists involved in Herschel data exploitation programmes.
Besides feature articles, it will provide illustrations (movies, animations, images...) as well as podcasts.
The realisation of a mirror website in english is expected soon but with a more limited content.

Access to the website: (in French for now)

01/26/2010: HIFI back on duty

On 3 August 2009 it was discovered that the HIFI Local Oscillator Control unit (LCU) had developed an anomaly leading to HIFI shutting down. Since then the HIFI consortium has been intensely investigated the nature of the problem.

HIFI is a very high resolution spectrometer which is functioning in the submillimetre wavelength spectral domain. That makes possible the detection and the measurement of some chemical components in the universe.

5 months after this breakdown, the problem has been identified, new software has been written to prevent a similar event. On the 10th of January, the painstaking reactivation sequence was started, using Herschel's backup LCU.

Now, the instrument is fully functional once again, and the verification of the instrument performances are now beginning. HIFI will be used extensively in "routine" mode in march 2010, and during the coming months to study star forming regions in our Galaxy.

Read the article...

01/06/2010: First scientific results for Herschel

A workshop of early results was held in Madrid, Spain 17 - 18 Dec 2009

Presentations containing some of the spectacular results and status reports are posted here :

Herschel was successfully launched together with Planck on 14 May 2009

After a successful Commissioning Phase (COP), the Performance Verification Phase (PVP) commenced in mid-July. An approximate overview of the early mission phases includes Commissioning Phase (COP) 2 months, Performance Verification Phase (PVP) 3 months, followed by the Science Demonstration Phase (SDP) and a gradual transition into Routine Science Phase (RSP). Currently, as of late December, except for HIFI, the PVP activities have basically been completed, SDP is nearly completed, and more and more RSP observations are being executed. Ended, on 3 August 2009 it was discovered an HIFI anomaly leading to the instrument shutting down. Since then the HIFI consortium and ESA have been intensely investigating the nature of the problem. After this extensive investigation, the cause of the failure is understood. HIFI will resume checkout and operations in early January 2010.

Some additional details resulting from the Madrid workshop :

  • SDP completion almost 60%, of what's left : ~50% is HIFI and ~50% is non-released PACS & SPIRE AOTs – mainly spectroscopy.
  • HIFI activities to re-commence in January 2010 ; HIFI to be allocated ~50% of Herschel time in early 2010 ; HIFI Priority Science Programme (PSP) to be executed in February-April 2010,
  • Taking into account the He quantity at the beginning of the SDP, and the He consumption (2,668 mg/s), the total mission lifetime is estimated at 3.8 years (until the end of March 2013), a little more than the nominal lifetime (3.5 years),
  • The Mission lifetime is 3.5-4 years, and the routine science phase duration will be 3-3.5 years. This corresponds to about 6600 hours science time per year. For the Key Programmes, the allocated time is ~11000 hours or ~1.7 years, so the time available to be allocated is ~1.3-1.8 years. It will be reasonable to have 2 AOs ; with an AO early 2010.

For more information, see:

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2009 events

11/24/2009: Herschel designated 7 best invention of year 2009 by Time

The Time published a list of the 50 Best Inventions of 2009. Nasa's new rocket Ares is in first position. The European Space Agency Herschel space telescope arrives in 7th position. Renamed "the telescope for invisible stars", Herschel will lift the dust curtain which masks the birth of stars in the galaxies molecular clouds.

Complete list

07/10/2009: Herschel operates today and realises its first observations

Herschel space observatory, European Space Agency (ESA) mission, launched on May 14 by Ariane 5 from Kourou, arrived at its final orbit at 1 500 000 kms from the Earth. The three on board instruments have been turned on and supplied their first data: a step awaited by french scientists with great expectations for this mission.

The first tests periode of HIFI, PACS and SPIRE instruments ended on July 7, exactely as planned. The programme for the next months will consist in the verification of the fin tunning to bring the instruments to their expected performances.

The scientific observations should begin during the autumn, a rendez-vous is taken for May 2010, when the first scientific results will be disclosed.

The first observations can be seen on the following pages:

06/19/2009: Herschel opened its 'eyes' on 14 June and the Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer obtained images of M51, "the whirlpool galaxy" for a first test observation.

Scientists obtained composite images in three wavelength (70, 100 and 160 µm) which clearly demonstrate the superiority of Herschel on other infrared space systems. Herschel is the largest space telescope ever flown.

Test image of M51 galaxy acquired by PACS instrument
Test image of M51 galaxy acquired by PACS instrument © ESA and Consortium PACS

These images of the Universs in the submillimetric infrared, with an unparallel resolution sharpness, have been acquired by the bolometric camera of PACS instrument, designed and realised by the Service d'astrophysique/Irfu of CEA, in partnership with CNES.
The emission collected comes from interstellar dust clouds heated by the numerous region of stellar formation and the massive star clusters present in the spiral arms as well as at the center of the Galaxy.
This image have been possible even if none of the systems used is properly calibrated, which augures of the real performances of Herschel, as soon as all the systems will be optimized, which is underway.

Read the whole article...

06/15/2009: Herschel cryocover is open.

The cryocover is the telescope's "lens cap": it provides a high-vacuum tight closure of the cryostat on ground and during the early orbit phase, and preserves the cryogenic environment of the instrument focal plane units during activities on ground.

05/21/2009: After a perfect injection in orbit, the in-flight commissionning of Herschel and Planck satellites begun.

05/14/2009: Successful launch of Herschel and Planck satellites!

02/2009 - 04/2009: Launch campaign.

02/09/2009: Herschel arrival to CSG/Kourou - see photos.

02/2009: 3D construction of Herschel satellite, © ESA/AOES Medialab

3D construction of HERSCHEL satellite

(Quicktime format 38 Mb or 5 Mb)

01/2009: Space conversation: "Herschel and the mysteries of the far infrared" (in french).

2008 events

12/2008: Launch aptitude review.

01/2008 - 08/2008: Satellite final integration and environment tests (cooldown, EMC, thermal tests and mechanical tests) and transfer to ESTEC.

01/2008: Delivery to ESTEC.

2007 events

07/2007 - 10/2007: Payload integration, mating, IST1 in ambient, debug.

07/2007: PACS and HIFI instruments delivery to ESA.

04/2007: SPIRE instrument delivery to ESA.

2006 events

Fin 2006: Delivery of the biggest monolithic mirror (3.5 m diameter) by Astrium Toulouse.

2005 - 2006: Deliveries of the Flight Models of the french participations.