November 27, 2009

Herschel's splendid spectra

Herschel spectroscopy takes centre stage today as new spectra, obtained with the SPIRE, PACS and HIFI instruments during the performance verification phase, are released by ESA and the instrument teams. Taken together with earlier images the observatory is now on the way to demonstrating that the promised imaging and spectroscopic capabilities are being met.

In contrast to images that reveal the distribution of light across the field of view, spectra provide an astronomical fingerprint of the objects being studied. Detailed analyses of these spectra provide insight into the physical and chemical composition of the objects.

The newly issued Herschel spectra, obtained with the SPIRE Fourier Transform Spectrometer, the PACS integral field spectrometer, and the HIFI heterodyne instrument touch on a number of key science goals for the mission and are an early demonstration of the capabilities of the observatory.

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VY Canis Majoris - the largest known star - PACS spectrumM82 - the nearest star-burst galaxy - PACS spectrumMarkarian 231 - giant mergers - PACS spectrum
VY Canis Majoris - the largest known star - SPIRE spectrumM82 - the nearest star-burst galaxy - SPIRE spectrumArp 220 - giant mergers - SPIRE spectrum
Orion Bar - galactic star formation - SPIRE spectrumDR21 - galactic star formation - HIFI spectrumComet Garradd - water in the solar system - HIFI spectrum