The Herschel Space Telescope, run by the European Space Agency was officially switched off on Monday, concluding its three-year mission.
Herschel became the largest infrared telescope ever sent to space when it launched in May 2009. Its purpose was to observe the coldest and dustiest regions in space, generally invisible to other telescopes.
The telescope’s vital supply of liquid helium coolant — needed to cool the spacecraft’s sensitive detectors and prevent heat from obscuring the far-infrared light it was built to detect – was used up at the end of April.
Controllers sent the final command to Herschel on June 17 and moved it into an orbit around the sun after draining the last of its fuel. The satellite may never have contact with Earth again but its legacy will endure through the tens of thousands of scientific observations it made during its brief lifetime.
The Horsehead Nebula is located in the constellation Orion around 1,300 light-years away. In the far right-hand side of this image, the Horsehead looks like it is rising above the surrounding gas and dust, which appears bright pink and white through Herschel's infrared camera.
W44 is the remains of a supernova, the explosion of a giant star. It appears as the giant purple sphere on the left-hand side of the image and measures 100 light-years across.
W3 is a molecular cloud located about 6,200 light-years away where stars are forming, called a stellar nursery. Low-mass, early-stage stars appear as tiny yellow dots within cool red filaments. Higher mass stars emit a lot of radiation, heating up the surrounding gas and dust, which makes it appear blue.
The Andromeda galaxy, the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way, hosts several hundred billion stars that are organised in concentric circles. Very cold dust appears red, while warmer regions appear blue.
The Vela C region is the largest part of the Vela Complex stellar nursery. This image depicts stars at a vast range of evolutionary stages, where bluer areas represent dust heated by hot stars.
A view of the Cygnus-X star-formation region shows dust and gas networks that represent sites of massive star formation.
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