Dr Stephen Serjeant on The Open University's involvement in the Herschel Planck launch (1/8)

Uploaded by TheOpenUniversity on 03.06.2009

I'm here because the Herschel space telescope's been launched,
with the Planck space telescope,
and we've very involved in both these missions at the Open University.
We're involved in the Herschel Spire instrument,
which is scanning the sky at infrared wavelengths,
to look at the birth of stars like our Milky Way,
and the birth of stars like our sun.
And we're also involved in the Planck satellite,
which is scanning the microwave background,
which is the light from when the universe was last opaque,
so, it's very, very primordial light.
And from that, we can learn a lot abut the geometry,
and the content of the universe.
So, there's a lot riding on these last few moments,
for this ground-based mission,
which is soon going to be launched into space.
Well, I was... I am involved in the Herschel Atlas key project,
which is an open-time legacy server,
where we're painting the sky as fast as we can,
to find rare primordial, star-bursting galaxies.
Or find black holes that are creating matter around them,
and creating the galaxy around them as well.
There's a strange connection between the birth of the galaxy,
and the birth of this tiny black hole in the centre.
And also to find gravitational lenses.
This is where you have some foreground object,
and a background object.
The foreground object is warping the space/time around it,
and the background object, the light is passing though that warp,
and getting magnified,
so, this gives us a very powerful look at the primordial universe,
that we wouldn't otherwise have.
So, we're scouring the sky for these very, very rare things,
which could be very informative,
for the birth of galaxies like our Milky Way.
So, if everything went perfectly and you got everything you wanted,
what would be the best case scenario?
The best case scenario would be...
..that we discover a whole new population of rare objects,
that we didn't know existed before -
gigantic star-forming galaxies,
bigger than anything we've seen before.
And this happened with previous missions -
there was a whole new population of hyper-luminous starburst galaxies,
that we didn't know existed before.
There's a huge scope for new discovery,
when we launch an important new space telescope like this one.
So, I'm quite excited about the unknown unknowns -
the things that we don't know, we can't expect.
Do you know an idea of timeline when we can start to see these things?
Ah, quite soon, actually.
We are now in May, I think,
and the satellite will be going out into space,
and into its orbit around the L2 point in space.
Around September or October, we should be getting our first data,
so, we're getting prepared now to analyse this data,
so we can get some very quick science out.
And it will be a revelation when we get our first data,
because this is a huge leap forward in infrared astronomy,
- so, we're very excited. - Fantastic.