Galaxy observations

Outside our Galaxy, Herschel will:

  • explore the influence of the environment on star formation. Most of what we have learned about the physics and chemistry of the interstellar medium (the space between stars), and processes such as star formation, has been gained by studies in our own Galaxy. With Herschel, we can carry out similar studies in nearby galaxies as well.
  • chart the rate of star formation over cosmic time. We know that star and galaxy formation started pretty soon after the Big Bang. We also know that when the Universe was about half its current age, star formation was much more intense than it is today. Herschel is ideal to study infrared-dominated galaxies at the peak of star formation.
  • find out what is making up the infrared cosmic background. About half the energy produced and emitted throughout cosmic history now appears as an infrared cosmic background. Herschel will be able to finally resolve the far-infrared background.

Below, Professor Stephen Eales tells an audience about some of the science motivations behind the Herschel mission and discusses the major (extra)galactic studies of the Universe.