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Ariane launches ESA astronomy missions
Posted: Thu, May 14, 2009, 2:07 PM ET (1807 GMT)
Ariane 5 launch of Herschel and Planck (ESA) An Ariane 5 rocket successfully launched a pair of European astronomy spacecraft Thursday morning. The Ariane 5 ECA lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana at 9:12 am EDT (1312 GMT) and released the Herschel and Planck spacecraft into an escape trajectory about a half-hour later. The two spacecraft are destined for the Earth-Sun L-2 point, 1.5 million kilometers from the Earth in the direction opposite the Sun. Herschel is an infrared observatory with a 3.5-meter mirror, the largest ever launched, and is designed to perform a variety of observations in wavelengths from the far infrared to submillimeter. Planck is designed to observe the cosmic microwave background at the highest accuracies to date to learn more about the Big Bang. Both Herschel and Planck are ESA missions, with some participation by NASA.
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