Liverpool Telescope captures departing spacecraft

Departing Herschel Spacecraft
LT image sequence of the Planck (left)
and Herschel (right) spacecraft
© LT/Marchant

Following the recent launch of the Herschel and Planck space telescopes on board the same Ariane 5 rocket, the Liverpool Telescope was able to capture their departure as they headed away from Earth. The animation shows Planck on the left and Herschel on the far right. The object between them (but closer to Herschel) is a structure that supported the two craft during launch. The varying brightness of the launch vehicle during the imaging sequence implies it is tumbling, unlike the two spacecraft which are stabilised in flight.

The spacecraft blasted off together from French Guiana at 13:12 GMT on the 14th May 2009, but seperated shortly after launch. The LT images were taken around 00:20 GMT on the 15th May, some 11 hours after launch, when the pair were more than 120,000 km from the Earth. Ten 5-second exposures were taken using the telescope's CCD camera with a V filter, approximately 17 seconds apart. By now the two space telescopes will have arrived at their final observing point - a stable gravitational orbit towards the outer Solar System that is 1.5 million kilometres away from Earth.

If you would like to find out more about the Herschel or Planck mission, click HERE.