The European Space Agency (Esa) has released stunning new pictures from the recently launched Herschel telescope. Credit: ESA
The pictures show star formation, and have been described as among the most important images obtained from space for decades.
Astronomers hope that, by analysing these images, they will be able to answer questions about how stars and galaxies are made.
Herschel is the largest astronomical telescope ever to be put into space.
It has captured images of previously invisible stardust. This is the stuff that galaxies, stars, planets and all life is made from, and scientists are studying it to follow the life cycle of the cosmos.
Bruce Swinyard, from the UK’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, is a member of the research team that designed Herschel’s Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (Spire), one of the three scientific instruments that is providing the telescope’s eyes.
These three detectors allow Herschel to see far-infrared and sub-millimetre (radio) wavelengths of light, allowing it to peer through clouds of dust and gas and to see stars as they are born.