Bad Astronomy

Herschel and Planck slide across the sky

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.