New NASA mission: probe will explore the past of the universe

In September 2016, the NASA Space Agencyopened a call for applications for the next mission as part of the astrophysics explorer program. Three years later, the decision was finally made - in 2023 a SPHEREx probe will go to Earth orbit, which will study the times of the appearance of the first stars and galaxies. The mission allocated $ 242 million, not counting the cost of launching a spacecraft.

The main task of the probe will be scanningspace in the near infrared light every six months for two years. By the end of the mission, he will display the entire sky in 96 different color bars. According to the calculations of astronauts, the device will be able to cover about 100 million stars of the Milky Way. The equipment will concentrate in places of fluid accumulation and molecular clouds, where active formation of new stars takes place.

It is expected that having considered distant galaxies ona distance of 10 billion light years, astronomers will learn what happened to the universe in the era of reionization. This time span falls between 550 and 800 million years after the Big Bang. It is believed that it was then that the rapidly expanding Universe began to cool and form the first space objects.

The 3 main objectives of the SPHEREx mission:

  • To study the physics of the expansion of the universe;
  • Explore the history of light studied by other galaxies;
  • Find out how prevalent in the Milky Way are the main ingredients of life: water, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and methanol.

According to the assistant administrator of the OfficeNASA's scientific missions by Thomas Zurbuhen, this mission can be a real treasure trove for scientists. A scale map containing traces of the first moments of the history of the Universe will help answer one of their main questions: “what exactly caused the universe to expand so quickly?”.

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