Planck and Herschel are en route to their orbit at L2!
We all milled around for half an hour, snapping pictures of friends, eminent scientists, and at least one Nobel prize winner, but it all went silent when they announced the last few minutes before launch. The inevitable 10.9.8.7.18.104.22.168.2.1 and ignition was followed by a still, silent seven or so seconds, and then we saw the smoke and flames.
(Apologies for the poor quality; there were many people there with far more powerful zoom lenses than my meagre 2.5x.)
For the rest, we had to watch the video feed from the control room, and, about half an hour later we finally heard what we were waiting for: first Herschel, and then Planck, had separated from the rocket and were on their own, off to L2. Four or five hours later, Planck’s instruments had been turned on, and the ESA team in Darmstadt was monitoring their progress. There’s a lot going on now, but we won’t have anything like scientific data for two or three months — and then our work is cut out for us.
Huge thanks to the instrument teams for their hard work for more than the last decade. Soon, the hard part for us scientists and data-analysts begins: four or so years of data coming down from the satellite, being cleaned and calibrated, building and rebuilding our (computer) model of the instrument, letting us build and rebuild our models of the Universe.
Thanks also to the HFI Instrument Principle Investigator and co-PI, Jean-Loup Puget and Francois Bouchet (and especially Hélène Blavot) for arranging this extraordinary opportunity for us scientists to see this part of the fruits of our work.