Cebreros (Ávila) participates in the mission of Herschel and Planck, the two European telescopes that will set out to explore the Universe on the Ariane 5 rocket, which is already on the launch pad.
In a clearing in the jungle of French Guiana, where the European space base in Kourou is located, the Ariane 5, 780 tons and 50.5 meters high, left the hangar at 1:50 p.m. CET and traveled the 2.8 kilometers from the launch pad. The departure is scheduled for tomorrow at 3:12 pm.
Herschel and Planck, even being two independent telescopes, make up one of the most ambitious scientific missions ever carried out by the European Space Agency (ESA), and one of the most expensive. Their combined cost is around 1,600 million euros, plus 200 million of the cost of the scientific instruments created by the many teams of astronomers that have developed them at the expense of the countries themselves. A dozen companies and dozens of scientists from Spanish institutions have contributed to these two missions, designed to observe the coldest and most unknown universe.
Herschel carries the largest astronomical mirror in orbit to date, 3.5 meters in diameter. It is a large telescope, 7.5 meters high and 3.5 tons in mass. Two-ton Planck is 4.2 tall. After launch, both will head towards a gravitational equilibrium point in the Earth-Sun system, located 1.5 million kilometers away from the star. This point is called L2 and it is a kind of virtual planet around which these two observatories will revolve. They will take 50 days to reach your workplace and will be placed in orbits other than L2.
Herschel is an advanced infrared telescope, designed to view galaxies very far from Earth and nearby areas where stars are forming; extrapolar planets are also among its priority targets. Planck will be used to photograph in detail never reached the background radiation of the universe, the remnant light of the Big Bang in which scientists want to find an answer to the formation of the first structures in the cosmos, define the geometry of the universe and test theories about his story.
The Spanish participation in these two missions is 88 million euros in industrial contracts in Herschel and Planck. In addition, some 10 million euros have been invested in instruments. We have participated in all project segments: in the construction of the satellites and in the development of the scientific detectors.In addition, the ESA center in Spain, ESAC, will process and exploit the data from the two missions. and one of the two communication antennas with the telescopes is in Spain, in Cebreros (Ávila).