Herschel on air

Photograph of the SPIRE instrument
The SPIRE Instrument

Key members of the SPIRE team, including the lead scientist on the instrument, Professor Matt Griffin, will feature in a two-part Radio 4 programme.

The Herschel Space Telescope is a two-part series to be aired on Radio 4 on Wednesday 18th November, 11:00-11:30am and Wednesday 25th November, 11:00-11:30am. BBC science reporter Jonathan Amos follows the engineers and scientists working on the SPIRE instrument for the European Space Agency's Herschel satellite. Herschel is one of the most important missions in the history of European spaceflight and was launched successfully on May 14 this year.

The SPIRE instrument was built by an international team led by Professor Griffin of Cardiff University. The programme tells the story of the UK SPIRE team as they prepared for the launch of Herschel and as the first results came in.

As well as Professor Griffin, other members of SPIRE team are also featured, including Professor Steve Eales, Dr Kate Isaak, Dr Dave Celements and Professor Bruce Winyard.

Professor Matt Griffin
Professor Matt Griffin.

Herschel carries the biggest mirror ever sent to space and is already giving astronomers their best view yet of the Universe at far-infrared and sub-millimetre wavelengths. It can peer through obscuring clouds of dust to look at the early stages of star birth and galaxy formation; it can examine the composition and chemistry of comets and planetary atmospheres in the Solar System; and it is able to study the star-dust ejected by dying stars into interstellar space which forms the raw material for planets like the Earth.

Professor Griffin said: "With its big telescope and sophisticated and sensitive instruments, including SPIRE, Herschel is a very powerful observatory for many studies from our own solar system to the most distant galaxies. Already we can see that its results will reveal how stars like the Sun are forming in our own galaxy today, how planetary systems can develop from the dust and gas around young stars, and how the galaxies grew and evolved over cosmic time."

The BBC website of the programme has more information, and the programme is available on the BBC iPlayer