Looking deep into space

The University of Lethbridge will host the first and only SPIRE (Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver) consortium meeting to be held in Canada on May 3-4 in Banff, Alta.

SPIRE is a dishwasher-sized case loaded with technology created by U of L researchers and designed and built by an international consortium of space agencies, universities and research institutes. It is one of three instruments on the Herschel space telescope, which was launched in 2009 and is orbiting 1.5 million km from the earth.

As the lead Canadian researcher for the Canadian Space Agency's contribution to the Herschel Space Observatory, U of L researcher Dr. David Naylor (physics and astronomy) has played a key role in the development of SPIRE.

Dr. David Naylor will welcome 50 esteemed researchers to the first SPIRE consortium meeting.

Functioning at a chilly -270C, SPIRE observes the universe at very long wavelengths, those well beyond the limit of human vision. Radiation emitted at these wavelengths is able to travel relatively unimpeded through even the densest regions of space, allowing astronomers to view back in time to the formation of the first galaxies.

Recent discoveries from Herschel are showing the far reaches of space in greater detail than ever before, including what the formation of our solar system must have looked like at its early stages: a violent, comet-laden disk of debris where thousands of 1 km-wide chunks of ice collide and spin around a young star.

More than 50 researchers from around the world will gather to update their colleagues on the Herschel mission, share data and discuss the outcomes of their research to date.

Dr. Steve MacLean, president of the Canadian Space Agency and former astronaut, will give the opening address.

For more information about the research team and the Banff meeting, visit