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A rocket carrying Europe's Herschel and Planck space telescopes has lifted off from Kourou in French Guiana.
Their Ariane 5 lifted clear of the equatorial spaceport at 1312 GMT (1412 BST) on a flight scheduled to last just under 30 minutes.
Mission controllers in Germany should get signals 10 minutes later to confirm they have control of the telescopes.
The rocket ride is just the first stage in a long journey for the astronomical satellites, which will spend the next few weeks making their way out to observation positions some 1.5 million km from Earth on its "night side".
Herschel is the largest telescope anyone has yet tried to put in space. Its 3.5m-diameter primary mirror is one-and-a-half-times the size of Hubble's main reflector.
The telescope will be sensitive to far-infrared and sub-millimetre (radio) wavelengths of light, allowing it to peer through clouds of dust and gas to see stars at the moment they are born.
Speaking on the eve of the launch, European Space Agency director general Jean-Jacques Dordain paid tribute to effort that brought the 1.9bn-euro observatories to the launch pad.
"This is the result of many years' hard work by thousands of scientists and engineers across Europe," he told BBC News.
"The technology onboard these satellites is unique, and the science these satellites will do is fantastic."