Herschel launch features U of L research

Some 15 years of work has finally come to fruition and all that's left now is sitting back and watching the results.

University of Lethbridge physicist Dr. David Naylor and his team of physics and astronomy undergraduates and graduate students, doctoral candidates and technicians have been working for the better part of 15 years on creating the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE). On Thursday, it will be put into action, shot into space to travel more than 1.5 million kilometres as part of the Herschel Space Telescope launch.

The Herschel is the largest telescope ever sent into space and its scheduled launch is Thursday morning, 7:12 a.m. Lethbridge time. Naylor will travel to French Guiana as the only Canadian scientist to watch the launch live. Locally, residents can watch the action live at Esquires Coffee House starting at 6:30 a.m. It is also available online Thursday morning by visiting

The SPIRE infrared measuring device measures the composition and physical conditions of material in the universe. It will take about four months to travel the 1.5 million kilometres into space.

As one of the world's foremost experts in Fourier Transform Spectroscopy, Naylor has a long history of developing innovative spectroscopy instruments and is the Canadian lead investigator for SPIRE, a project involving scientists from eight nations. He is responsible for the design and construction of a spectrometre to determine the performance of SPIRE, and for developing the SPIRE data analysis software.

The Herschel Space Observatory's three-year mission is to study relatively cool objects in the universe. Stars themselves are hot objects but they are born in cold, dark places that the Herschel is designed to measure.
Information about the Herschel space telescope and the equipment that helps make it operate effectively can be found at this website:

Over the past 15 years, more than 100 University of Lethbridge students have played a role in the research that led to the launch of the SPIRE device into space.