Asset Publisher

The Groningen Discovery Truck - featuring Herschel

The Groningen Discovery Truck - featuring Herschel

The Groningen Discovery Truck is a mobile, interactive, discovery exposition bringing science to students and the general public in the Netherlands. The truck is operated by the Faculty of Mathematics and Science of the University of Groningen. Since mid-2008, the Discovery truck has hosted "Discover the Invisible Universe" which features the Herschel mission.

The Groningen Discovery Truck - on tour in The Netherlands. Image courtesy of Theo Jurriens.

The purpose of the project is to encourage an interest in, and understanding of, science by means of infrared astronomy. The exposition will take advantage of the excitement and interest arising from the Herschel launch and first results from the mission to raise interest in this topic during 2009, the International Year of Astronomy.

Inside the Discovery

The unique laboratory space is packed full with hands-on experiments including a series which allows students to explore the infrared Universe – from close to home (using remote controls, thermal cameras and cola bottles) to far out into space (with magnificent images of astronomical objects).

Students from De Nuborgh school in Elburg, The Netherlands, participate in a number of hands-on activities inside the Discovery Truck. Images courtesy of Theo Jurriens.

Herschel on the road

Peter Barthel pictured in front of the Herschel spacecraft in the test center at ESTEC, The Netherlands.

In 2009 the Discovery truck will be on the road bringing the infrared Universe to students of all ages. During the summer months the truck will visit 12 Dutch cities bringing infrared astronomy, the Herschel mission and early results from the mission to the general public with the assistance of William Herschel (played by an actor) and a scale model of the spacecraft. Some 30 high school visits (over 150 groups) are planned as well.

A winning project

The project, Ontdek het onzichtbare heelal (Discover the invisible Universe), was proposed by a team from the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG), lead by Peter Barthel and Gijs Verdoes Kleijn. It was the winning proposal in the 2008 Academische Jaarprijs – awarded annually in the Netherlands for excellence in science communication.

A long tradition in infrared astronomy

The Netherlands, and Groningen in particular, have a long-established tradition in infrared astronomy and the related infrared technologies. Astronomers and space researchers from Groningen have played leading roles in previous infrared satellites, IRAS and ISO, and this tradition continues with Herschel. A Groningen-led consortium lead by RUG has developed the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared, or HIFI as it is usually called, - one of the three Herschel instruments - and RUG astronomer Peter Barthel is a Herschel mission scientist.

Further details about the Groningen Discovery Truck can be found on the dedicated web site (in Dutch) - see link on right-hand menu - or by contacting Theo Jurriens (

Last Update: 1 September 2019