SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research

SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research



SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research









Shown is the far-infrared spectrum of the molecular outer layers and shells of the famous AGB star IRC + 10 216 as measured by ISO-LWS. The wealth of molecular lines is dominated by the simple CO and HCN molecules. However, more carbon-bearing species are expected, and their lines may be detected through the higher spectral and spatial resolution of HIFI.

Figure adapted from J. Cernicharo et al., 1996, A&A 315, L201


Low resolution far-infrared spectra of objects in subsequent stages of post-AGB evolution. From top to bottom NGC 7027, CRL 618 and CRL 2688. CRL 2688 is a F-giant which has recently left the AGB. CRL 618 is a young planetary nebula ionized by a B-type central star, but still deeply embedded in the molecular envelope, created during the AGB phase. NGC 7027 has a hot central star whose ionizing photons have formed a compact planetary nebula. The low resolution spectra of these objects are dominated by strong CO lines of the gas heated by stellar photons and shocks. HIFI will enable us to to study the kinematics associated with the dominant cooling lines of the gas and thus study the physical conditions during the evolution of these types of objects.

Figure adapted from K. Justtanont et al., 1999, in "The Universe as seen by ISO", ESA SP-427, p.345.


A spectral survey for three sources in a high-mass star-forming region (W3), in one of the small windows of the submillimeter wavelength region observable from the ground .

The source in the top panel is undergoing infall from its parent molecular cloud and, at the same time, has a massive outflow. This is reflected in the spectrum through the prominence of sulfur-bearing molecules and a relatively small number of lines.

The star in the centre of the source in the middle panel has heated its environment. Complex molecules like alcohols have evaporated from the icy mantles of dust grains. Rotational lines from these molecules dominate the spectrum. The elevated temperature also causes many other molecular lines to be visible.

In the bottom panel, the star has broken free from its parent cloud and radiate from the back. The resulting spectrum shows few lines of mainly very simple molecules.

HIFI will open up the full submillimeter window from 480 to 1900 GHz to make a molcular inventory of regions of star-formation and thus enable us to determine their physical conditions, and probe their origin and evolution.

Figure taken from Van Dishoeck & Helmich, 1996, in Proc. 30th ESLAB Symp., ESA SP-388, p. 3

The Orion Bar is a PDR created by the UV radiation of nearby hot stars about 2 arcminutes to the North West . # (see also lower picture). Picture taken from

PhotoDissociation Regions (PDRs) are regions of predominantly neutral material where impinging far-ultraviolet photons heat the gas and ionize and dissociate the species. In PDRs, most of the hydrogen is in atomic form, while species with low-lying ionization potentials such as C, S, and Si are singly ionized. Traces of molecular species are also present. Deeper into a cloud, shielded from the FUV radiation, the gas will turn completely molecular. PDRs are bright in the finestructure lines of [CII] (1.9 THz), [CI] (492, 809 GHz), and [OI] (4.7, 2.0 THz) and the molecular rotational lines of CO and a variety of other molecules. Of course, the FUV photons are absorbed by dust and reradiated at longer wavelengths, so the far-infrared dust continuum of galaxies also originates from PDRs. Traditionally, PDRs are associated with regions of massive star formation where hot stars create HII regions or reflection nebulae. However, much of the physics and chemistry of the ISM is regulated by FUV photons as well  and hence almost all of the interstellar gas is in PDRs of one sort or another.

The Orion Bar region is an excellent example of a PDR created by the UV photons of a massive star.

The B3-B4-B5 region allows us to study PDRs associated with molecular cloud interfaces, illuminated by the diffuse interstellar radiation field.

Mosaic of the Orion Bar region taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in visible light tracing the ionized gas, created by the hot Trapezium cluster, from www.stsci.ed. # The white box indicates the outline of the image of the Orion PDR.
The atomic HI cloud (gray scale) surrounding the molecular cloud complex B3-B4-B5. # Contours are CO J=1-0, indicating the molecular gas. For scale, 1 degree is 2.3 parsec.


The coloured part in the top image shows the location of band 1-5 of HIFI.
The lower image shows a simulated spectrum for the Orion IRc2 region in which an enormous richness in molecular lines is expected. (Picture courtesy of Peter Schilke)



The Astrophysics programme at SRON is dedicated to unraveling the history of the universe, from the first stars and black holes to large-scale structure.


The Earth programme covers SRON’s activities on unraveling the impact of trace gases and aerosols in the atmosphere on the climate and air quality of planet Earth.


The Exoplanets programme is dedicated to atmospheres of other planets and is an in-between of SRON's Astrophysics and Earth programmes.


The Technology programme is SRON's backbone for development of enabling technology and technology transfer & valorisation.


The Instrument science group covers SRON's skills and know-how with regard to instrument physics, system engineering (up to full-instrument level) and project management. It is an expertise group that provides resources for all SRON instrument projects.


The Engineering group covers SRON's skills and know-how with regard to product assurance, quality assurance, configuration control, design engineering – electronic & mechanical – and parts procurement. It is an expertise group that provides resources for all SRON instrument projects.


Annual report

Annual report

Our annual report 2014-2015 will be available soon. Please find here SRON's latest report.

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SRON’s scientific programme focuses on the evolution and history of the universe, on climate change and air quality on earth, and on the atmospheres of planets near other stars than our sun. SRON therefore has four programme lines: Astrophysics, Exoplanets, Earth, and Technology. These four programme lines are supported by two expertise groups: Instrument science and Engineering. SRON’s goals are to maintain its leading position in international space missions and to find answers to the big scientific and societal questions of our time.

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50 jaar ruimteonderzoek

50 jaar ruimteonderzoek

Halverwege de jaren vijftig van de 20ste eeuw - met name na de lancering van de Russische Sputnik-satelliet in 1957 - zien astronomen in dat de ruimtevaart kan helpen de grote vragen van het ruimteonderzoek te beantwoorden. Henk van de Hulst richt in 1960 de Commissie voor Geofysica en Ruimteonderzoek van de KNAW op; Kees de Jager volgt op 1 oktober 1961 met de Werkgroep Ruimteonderzoek van Zon en Sterren. Het is het begin van een ontwikkeling waarin Nederlandse sterrenkundigen wereldwijd een grote reputatie opbouwen.

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SRON’s mission is to bring about breakthroughs in international space research 

Therefore the institute develops pioneering technology and advanced space instruments, and uses them to pursue fundamental astrophysical research, Earth science and exoplanetary research. As national expertise institute SRON gives counsel to the Dutch government and coordinates - from a science standpoint - national contributions to international space missions. SRON stimulates the implementation of space science in our society.