Herschel's Splendid Spectra

Image: VY Canis Majoris - the largest known star PACS 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.

Since its launch in May this year the teams working on the Herschel Space Observatory have made steady progress as they prepare to hand over the observatory to the world's astronomical community.
Early reports on the mission focussed on stunning images from the two cameras onboard.

Today, the three Herschel spectrometers take centre stage, as new spectra are released. 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.
A broad spectrum of objects has been observed, including comets, massive stars, star-forming regions, and a variety of galaxies.

Fabulously detailed spectra reveal forests of emission lines and signatures of elements, some detected for the first time. For full details click on the images below.

Additional images

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