The mission: The European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory has the largest single mirror ever built for a space telescope. At 3.5-metres in diameter the mirror will collect long-wavelength radiation from some of the coldest and most distant objects in the Universe. HIFI The Herschel science payload comprises three instruments that perform a combination of spectrometry, imaging spectrometry and imaging photometry covering a wavelength range from 55 to 672 μm.
One of them is the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI). It is a very high-resolution heterodyne spectrometer. The heterodyne detection principle involves translating the frequency range of the signal observed by the telescope to a lower frequency where it is easier to perform the required measurements.
It was developed by a consortium led by SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Science. HIFI has recently revealed the chemical fingerprints of potential life-enabling organic molecules in the Orion Nebula, a nearby stellar nursery in our Milky Way galaxy.
This detailed spectrum, demonstrates the gold mine of information that Herschel-HIFI will provide on how organic molecules form in space. Striking features in the HIFI spectrum include a rich, dense pattern of “spikes”, each representing the emission of light from a specific molecule in the Orion Nebula.
HIFI Optics by Sumipro
Sumipro has a long standing relationship with the Dutch SRON (Netherlands Institute for Space Research), providing them with cutting edge technology for special optics ranging from mirrors to elliptically formed HPFZ silicon lenses. One of the major challenges SRON and Sumipro have been forced to solve was the manufacturing of 8 mirrors shaped like a rooftop (see picture). Now these mirror optics together with the silicon lenses provide scientists with new information on how the Universe is evolving.
For more information on the Herschel program: