After 3.5 years the liquid helium coolant on board of ESA's Herschel Space Observatory has finally run out. This means that the molecule hunter HIFI - one of its three instruments - has ceased to collect spectra. But the scientific heritage is impressive already. Thanks to HIFI, scientists now much better understand the cosmic cycle of gas which leads to for instance the birth of stars and planets, and the role (water) molecules play.
An international team of astronomers, including researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and from the University of Cologne, successfully identified two titanium oxides in the extended atmosphere around a giant star. The object VY Canis Major is one of the largest stars in the known universe and close to the end of its life. The detection was made using telescope arrays in the USA and in France.