First Science from Herschel

A comment posted today on a previous item reminded me that this is supposed to be a science blog, so I thought it would be a good idea to put up a brief message about the status of Herschel.

Today is the first day of the Herschel First Results Symposium which is being held on the premises of ESTEC at Noordwijk in The Netherlands; you can see the poster below. There’s quite a strong Cardiff contingent there, and the meeting will go on until Friday, so it’s a going to be a bit quiet around here for the rest of the week.

The results being presented at this Symposium are covered by a strict ESA policy and most of them are embargoed, at least  for the time being. However, you can keep up with the meeting to some extent on Twitter, as I’ve been doing from time to time. Just follow #eslab2010. There are also edited highlights on the Herschel Mission Blog. It’s a bit frustrating only getting the odd snippet, but it does at least give you an idea of what’s going on and a heads-up for things that will be released officially soon.

In fact pretty soon a load of Herschel images and other results will be made public and I’ll be spoilt for choice as to what to post on here. In fact, I think all the presentations at the Symposium will be put online after it’s finished. There’s also going to be a deluge of science papers on the arXiv, the result of a lot of hard work (not to say a total panic) by those directly involved in analysing the first data to come through from the telescope. I’m looking forward to that, although there’s no way I’ll have time to read them all!

It’s hard to believe that it’s just a little under a year since we gathered in a state of nervous tension (moderated by a steady intake of alcohol) to watch the launch of Planck and Herschel. I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets when I write that the mission has been an outstanding success so far, even exceeding its specified performance in some respects.

I’ll be posting some Herschel goodies from time to time once the embargo is lifted, but until that happens you’ll just have to wait. I could tell you more but if I did I’d have to kill you.

PS. To return to my first sentence, I’m not even sure I should call this a science blog. I think of it as a personal blog, written by a person who happens to be a scientist…

5 Responses to “First Science from Herschel”

  1. Dave Carter Says:

    Excellent, and the Herschel OT1 call is scheduled in a couple of weeks so a chance for everyone to get involved in this successful mission.

  2. Mark McCaughrean Says:

    Blimey, Peter, you make us (ESA) sound like we’re running some kind of police state here, with your talk of strict embargoes and having to be killed if you gave the game away prematurely 🙂

    The only stuff which was formally embargoed (as far as I am aware) was the material presented at the press conference here at ESTEC today, for the usual reasons that we wanted all journalists to get a hold of it simultaneously, with no unfair advantages. That’s normal, no? I mean, we did have one journo blagging his way on-site on Monday, hoping for a premature scoop, but we kept a lid on him and besides, he works for a radio station, so …

    All presentations from the meeting will be available online “real soon now” and the science papers for the A&A special edition will also be on astro-ph. I think it’s fair that everyone agreed not to jump the gun ahead of the symposium, but I also haven’t heard anyone here complaining about it. Dave Clements and others are blogging, I believe, but there are no constraints from our side on what they can and cannot say.

    Of course, if you had come to the meeting, you could have heard it all first hand 🙂

  3. telescoper Says:


    I quite understand the desire to keep things under wraps to maximize the impact of press releases. I’d have liked to have been there at the meeting too, but unfortunately I’ve just got too many other things to do and I’m not really that closely connected with Herschel anyway so I couldn’t justify the time.

    I also didn’t mean to suggest that people would really be killed if they found out about Herschel results ahead of the official release. That only applies to Planck.


  4. Mark McCaughrean Says:

    Hmmm, yes, Planck. FYI, we (with the Planck science team’s full agreement) are aiming to put out a multi-frequency all-sky image sometime this month, I believe, although clearly not the foreground-subtracted CMB image, if only because it doesn’t exist yet. But given the quality of the snippets of the galactic sky we’ve already released, I expect this one to be very, very good. The FITS files are somewhere in the building, I understand, so I should try and have a peek …

    Releasing the CMB data is, of course, quite something else and will take much longer. But the schedule for doing that is all legally agreed to in the Science Management Plan signed off by all of our advisory committees and our “board of governors”, the SPC, ages ago, so there’s no skullduggery on our side in that regard …

    Patience is a virtue … om mane padme hum …

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