Herschel and Planck slide across the sky

By Phil Plait | May 15, 2009 1:00 pm

Yesterday, the European Space Agency successfully launched the space observatories Herschel and Planck. Today, they released two cool videos of the event: one was taken by the spacecraft itself and shows the Planck payload moving away from Herschel.

The other video was taken by a one-meter tracking ‘scope in the Canary Islands, and shows the two spacecraft together with the Sylda launch vehicle gliding across the sky a few hours after the two observatories separated from the vehicle:

Whoa, that’s cool. The two bright objects are Herschel and Planck, and the dimmer one is the Sylda.

I love love love that this type of imagery is becoming available. It certainly helps engineers on the ground characterize the launch and trajectory of the spacecraft, but it’s also a visceral reminder that humanity has left its footprint in space. May many more join them.

Credit: ESA. Tip o’ the payload shroud to Douglas Scott for letting me know I had the timing wrong initially; the animation was made hours after separation, not minutes.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures, Space

Comments (22)

Links to this Post

  1. The last fix | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine | May 25, 2009
  1. Matt T

    Excuse me while I SQUEEEEEE like a complete fanboy.

    (Actually “Excuse me while I kiss the sky” would have been a way cooler response. But I’m not that cool, sadly.)

  2. What are the two bright spots in the lower left?

  3. Austin L

    @Todd W
    Just weather balloons…

  4. @Austin L

    Yeah. That’s what they said about Roswell… 😉

  5. I just want to thank the ESA for getting with the program and actually releasing cool stuff in a timely manner.

  6. Amazing. I love watching satellites. Even if I haven’t looked up transit times, I will hunt for them at star parties and usually find some (it helps having good Arizona skies!)

  7. RickT

    A very cool photo, BUT … Phil, are you going to get us the real scoop on the potential optical SETI “Wow” signal that I’ve just seen a couple of sites reference — appeared in The Australian a few days ago, in a remarkably straightforward and appropriately qualified and unsensationalistic piece that suggests journalism may not be dead:

    AFTER you’ve spent more than 20 years hunting for an alien signal, you think you’d be celebrating if you noticed a mysterious pulse suddenly rising up on your computer readouts. A regular pulse, amid the random clatter of the cosmos, suggests that someone very smart at the other end is sending a message.

    But when Ragbir Bhathal, an astrophysicist at the University of Western Sydney, who teaches the only university-based course on SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) in Australia, detected the suspicious signal on a clear night last December, he knew better than to crack open the special bottle of champagne he has tucked away for the history-making occasion.

    Instead, he’s spent the past few months meticulously investigating whether the unrecognised signature was caused by a glitch in his instrumentation, a rogue astrophysical phenomenon, or some unknown random noise.

    Even if he picks up the signal again – he’s been scouring the same co-ordinates of the night sky on an almost daily basis since – the scientific rule book dictates he’ll need to get it peer-reviewed before he can take his announcement to the world. “And that is a lot of ifs,” he concedes.

  8. drow

    it’s clearly a fake, probably two CIA guys holding lightbulbs running around on a dark las vegas sound stage. you can see one stumble at 0:23.11, i think it’s agent vishnu on toast.

  9. TJ

    I’m gonna guess that the throbbing in the lower-left is a laser pointer.

  10. Rift


    You do realize that Phil has an entire web site with a forum you could post that too (somebody has beat you to it though) instead of your message being buried as completely off topic on his blog. The Link to the Bad Astronomy and Universe Today Forum is right over there ——–>

  11. QUASAR
  12. Flying sardines

    The BA wrote :

    it’s also a visceral reminder that humanity has left its footprint in space.

    [Super-pedant mode on]

    Hmm … Footprints in the vaccum, the empty empty nothingness? Nah, Idon’t think so! No ground there to leave a mark upon! We can leave footprintsonthemoon (& have done) wecan leave footrpints onMars and the asteroids and Mercury & places like thatwith solid ground but *space* … Nahhh.

    [Super-pedant mode off]

    Awesome video footage! 8)

    Although the really coolest thing would be finding the right times for your location, (Heavens above website) standing outside checking the skies (hope they’re clear) and spotting this with your own unaided eyes – or do you need binoculars? What magnitudes are the trio? If I recall right, Sputnik (the original) was visible & that was much smaller although maybe more reflective …

    @ Matt T :

    (Actually “Excuse me while I kiss the sky” would have been a way cooler response. But I’m not that cool, sadly.)

    Certainly better than the misquoted mondegreen of that line! 😉

    Go on, you can say it. In fact, I think you did! 😉

  13. If you look carefully, you’ll see that all of the stars in that image pulse along with the two bright ones in the lower left. It could be some artifact of the imaging system or maybe high clouds blowing over.

    – Jack

  14. Flying sardines

    Typos. Sigh.

    Hope y’all understand me anyway, well what I wrote anyhow! Sure wish we could *EDIT* these comments!

    Here ’tis again – corrected :

    We can leave footprints on our Moon (& have done) we can leave footprints on Mars and the asteroids plus Mercury & places like that which have solid ground but footprints in *space* … Nahhh.

    Space observatories and other satellites (& less admirably space junk) OTOH … Heck, no worries! 😉

  15. Flying sardines

    @ Rift : Good placement there! :-)

    Of course some people just can’t be bothered with the forum blog when there are these comments handy here.

    Personally, I kinda use the BA blog for space &science (& anti-science bunkum) news and then just comment there. I guess the forum’s alright but it is a kinda different & somewhat less welcoming, more restrictive (& perhaps less useful?) set-up.

    O’course that’s all In My Humble Opinion natch & off-topic here but anyhow.

  16. Flying sardines

    By there I mean here, naturally. 😉

    One idea – don’t know what others think of it – would be to somehow combine them & make all these comments threads part of the forum somehow …? Just a thought.

    (We can edit forum posts can’t we? Been years since I last visited.)

    But then the forum does seem a somewhat different (& in some ways more limited) place.

  17. Rift

    @Flying Sardines

    Less welcoming??? More Limited???

    That has not been my experience (and I’ve been part of the forum since the old, old forum, it precedes the bad astronomy blog by about 12 years). It is a much friendlier place, and the vicious attacks that are common on the blog comments are totally lacking. It is only ‘more restrictive’ in that religion and politics are totally no go topics, but in my opinion that is a good thing.

    There is already a good discussion running about what RickT was talking about and it is easily found and not hidden in an off topic comment. The forum now has more moderators then it use to have regular readers, who try to keep it friendly for younger readers. I find it a MUCH nicer place then the blog comments and I have no idea why I even bother reading the blog comments (or responding) except perhaps for a ‘train wreck’ effect.

  18. IBY

    I have got to say, that is a really cool video. I wonder if they are visible with the naked eye?

  19. and what double star is that at lower left – Zebenelgenubi?

  20. a lurker
  21. maddogdelta

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