NASA wants to go back in time to the beginning of the universe. And with a new space telescope, scientists at the agency should be able to do just that.
The new telescope, scheduled for launch in 2024 or 2025, “will map the entire sky to study the rapid expansion of the universe after the Big Bang, the makeup of young planetary systems and the history of galaxies,” according to one communicated. from NASA.
This will offer a leap forward from what we can see now, the experts said. “It’s like going from black and white images to color; it’s like going from Kansas to Oz, ”said Allen Farrington, telescope project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The telescope will monitor the sky in optical light with near infrared light which, while not visible to the human eye, serves as a powerful tool for answering cosmic questions, NASA said. Astronomers will use the mission to collect data on over 300 million galaxies, as well as over 100 million stars in our own Milky Way.
The telescope, which will orbit the Earth once it is launched, is known as SPHEREx, acronym for that bite: the spectrophotometer for the history of the universe, the epoch of reionization and the ice explorer.
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SPHEREx should be about the size of a subcompact car and, according to NASA, “will map the entire sky four times, creating a huge database of stars, galaxies, nebulae (clouds of gas and dust in space) and many other celestial objects ”.
The $ 242 million telescope, which is expected to have a lifespan of around two years, will first look for evidence of something that may have happened less than a billionth of a billionth of a second after the Big Bang, 13 billion years ago. In that split second, “space itself may have expanded rapidly in a process that scientists call inflation,” NASA said.
Such a swelling would have influenced the distribution of matter in the cosmos, and evidence of this influence is still there today, according to NASA. With SPHEREx, scientists will map the position of billions of galaxies across the universe in relation to each other, looking for statistical patterns caused by inflation, NASA reported.
The models could help scientists understand the physics that drove this expansion.
Another goal of the telescope is to study the history of the formation of galaxies, starting with the first stars to ignite after the Big Bang and extending to current galaxies.
Finally, scientists will use SPHEREx to search for water ice and frozen organic molecules – the building blocks of life on Earth – around newly formed stars in our galaxy.
“This incredible mission will be a treasure trove of unique data for astronomers,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the NASA Science Missions Directorate, said in a 2019 statement.
“It will provide an unprecedented galactic map containing ‘fingerprints’ of the first moments in the history of the universe,” he said. than a nanosecond after the Big Bang? “
The SPHEREx team is expected to spend the next 29 months building the mission components before entering the next mission phase, when those components are put together, tested and launched.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NASA’s New SPHEREx Telescope to Study the Big Bang, Beginning of the Universe