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Dying Herschel snapped by amateur astronomers

2 Jul 2013, 16:06 UTC
Dying Herschel snapped by amateur astronomers
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The LCOGT education operations centre is based in Cardiff University, School of Physics and Astronomy alongside the UK Herschel Outreach Office. Herschel Space Observatory spent over three years taking stunning images of the Universe in far infrared wavelengths, but in April the spacecraft depleted the last of its helium coolant, concluding science operations. After this, the spacecraft operations team performed a series of engineering tests. A series of thruster burns moved it from its orbit around the Lagrangian point, L2 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth, and into an orbit around the Sun. Finally, in June, the spacecraft was switched off.As well as being tracked by ESA ground stations throughout its mission, amateur astronomers have also enjoyed spotting the spacecraft. Last week, as Herschel began moving away from Earth, Nick Howes and Ernesto Guido used the 2m diameter Faulkes Telescope North in Hawaii to image the spacecraft. They were using time allocated to our education partners, Faulkes Telescope Project, for UK schools and amateur astronomers.The observation was a particular challenge as the final manoeuvres made by the ESA flight control team resulted in the observatory being at a slightly different position on the sky compared to that predicted by existing ...

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