"Fingerprints" – NASA's SPHEREx mission is to explore the first seconds of the universe


Posted on February 14, 2019


NASA has selected a new space mission, SPHEREx, which will provide an unprecedented map of the Milky Way containing the "fingerprints" of the first moments in the history of the universe, said Thomas Zurbuchen, deputy administrator of the scientific mission of NASA. "And we will have new clues about one of the biggest mysteries of science: what has allowed the universe to develop so rapidly less than a nanosecond after the big bang? "

SPHEREx will examine hundreds of millions of galaxies near and far, some of them so distant that their light took 10 billion years to reach Earth. In the Milky Way, the mission will search for water and organic molecules – essential to life as we know it – in star nurseries, regions where stars are born from gas and dust. , as well as disks around which new planets could form. .

The Spectrophotometer mission for the history of the Universe, the re-ionization era and the ice explorer (SPHEREx) is planned over two years and has a budget of $ 242 million (excluding launching costs) and its launch is scheduled for 2023.

"I'm really excited about this new mission," said Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator. "Not only does it expand the powerful fleet of US space missions dedicated to discovering the mysteries of the universe, but it is also an essential part of a balanced scientific program comprising missions of various sizes."

NASA Spherex

SPHEREx will monitor the sky under an optical as well as a near infrared light that, although not visible to the human eye, is a powerful tool for answering cosmic questions. Astronomers will use this mission to collect data on more than 300 million galaxies, as well as on more than 100 million stars of our own Milky Way.

Every six months, SPHEREx will study the entire sky using technologies adapted from the Earth's satellites and the Mars satellite. The mission will create a map of the entire sky in 96 bands of different colors, far exceeding the color resolution of the previous open-air maps. It will also identify targets for further study by future missions, such as NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and the wide-field infrared surveyor telescope.

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The NASA astrophysics exploration program solicited proposals for new missions in September 2016. Nine proposals were submitted and two mission concepts were selected for further study in August 2017. After A detailed review by a panel of scientists and external engineers and NASA, NASA determined that the SPHEREx concept study offered the best scientific potential and the most feasible development plan.

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The mission's lead investigator is James Bock of Caltech, Pasadena, California. Caltech will work with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop the mission payload. JPL will also manage the mission.

NASA's Explorer program, run by the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the agency's longest running program. It aims to provide frequent and inexpensive access to space with the help of scientific investigations conducted by principal investigators and relevant to astrophysics and heliophysics programs. in the direction of NASA's scientific mission.

The program has launched more than 90 missions, starting in 1958 with Explorer 1, which has discovered the radiation belts of the Earth. Another mission of the explorer, the Cosmic Background Explorer, launched in 1989, led to a Nobel Prize.

The Daily Galaxy via Goddard Space Flight Center


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