Context. Within the project Galacticcoldcores we are carrying out Herschel photometric observations of cold interstellar clouds detected with the Planck satellite. The three fields observed as part of the Herschel science demonstration phase (SDP) provided the first glimpse into the nature of these sources. The aim of the project is to derive the physical properties of the full cold core population revealed by Planck. Aims: We examine the properties of the dust emission within the three fields observed during the SDP. We determine the dust sub-millimetre opacity, look for signs of spatial variations in the dust spectral index, and estimate how the apparent variations of the parameters could be affected by different sources of uncertainty. Methods: We use the Herschel observations where the zero point of the surface brightness scale is set with the help of the Planck satellite data. We derive the colour temperature and column density maps of the regions and determine the dust opacity by a comparison with extinction measurements. By simultaneously fitting the colour temperature and the dust spectral index values we look for spatial variations in the apparent dust properties. With a simple radiative transfer model we estimate to what extent these can be explained by line-of-sight temperature variations, without changes in the dust grain properties. Results: The analysis of the dust emission reveals cold and dense clouds that coincide with the Planck sources and confirm those detections. The derived dust opacity varies in the range κ(250 μm) ~ 0.05-0.2 cm2 g-1, higher values being observed preferentially in regions of high column density. The average dust spectral index β is ~1.9-2.2. There are indications that β increases towards the coldest regions. The spectral index decreases strongly near internal heating sources but, according to radiative transfer models, this can be explained by the line-of-sight temperature variations without a change in the dust properties. Planck (http://www.esa.int/Planck) is a project of the European Space Agency - ESA - with instruments provided by two scientific consortia funded by ESA member states (in particular the lead countries: France and Italy) with contributions from NASA (USA), and telescope reflectors provided in a collaboration between ESA and a scientific Consortium led and funded by Denmark.Herschel is an ESA space observatory with science instruments provided by European-led Principal Investigator consortia and with important participation from NASA.Appendices are only available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org

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