We are stardust, we are golden…

….and we’ve got to start paying more attention to the Herschel telescope, because this wonderful piece of technology is showing us what deep space looks like.  It has captured images of previously invisible stardust. This is the stuff that galaxies, stars, planets and all life emanates from, and scientists study it to follow the life cycle of the cosmos.

I ‘borrowed’ this (lifted it whole, actually) from the BBC News website:

Bruce Swinyard, from the UK’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, is a member of the research team that designed Herschel’s Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (Spire), one of the three scientific instruments that is providing the telescope’s eyes.

These three detectors allow Herschel to see far-infrared and sub-millimetre (radio) wavelengths of light, allowing it to peer through clouds of dust and gas and to see stars as they are born.

This infrared capability also enables Herschel to look deep into space, to look at galaxies that thrived when the Universe was roughly a half to a fifth of its present age. This is a period in cosmic history when it is thought star formation was at its most prolific.

Professor Swinyard explained that by looking at “young galaxies”, Herschel is able reveal some of the history of star formation.

He said that the thousands of galaxies the telescope had detected would allow researchers to test models of galaxy formation, and to uncover the chemical processes that make stardust.

One of the pictures shows that the vacuum of space is actually full of star dust.

Astronomers will continue to study the images, which have already shown that the mechanisms of the cosmos may be more diverse and complex than current theory suggests.

The European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory (formerly called Far Infrared and Sub-millimetre Telescope or FIRST) has the largest single mirror ever built for a space telescope. At 3.5-metres in diameter the mirror will collect long-wavelength radiation from some of the coldest and most distant objects in the Universe. In addition, Herschel will be the only space observatory to cover a spectral range from the far infrared to sub-millimetre. See more stunning images from the Herschel telescope

Link to Herschel's homepage on Space for Europe's site