With a launch scheduled for 2023, NASA’s new telescope under the SPHEREX mission will investigate the origins of the universe as well as life. $ 242 million has already been earmarked for the project, not including launch costs.
When it is in Earth orbit, the telescope will collect data from more than 300 million galaxies, some of which are up to 10 billion light years from Earth, as well as studying 100 million stars that are here in the Milky Way. SPHEREx will also use adapted technologies from Earth and Mars satellites to observe the sky in optical and infrared light, using in all 96 wavelengths. In this way, NASA will be able to create an extremely detailed celestial map, with a resolution much higher than the maps already elaborated until then.
One of the main goals of the new mission is to search for molecules of water and various organic molecules inside the Milky Way, as well as to search for ingredients of life in regions where stars are born, also studying discs around stars that form new planets. And in doing so in other galaxies beyond our own, the space agency hopes to find even more clues that will enhance our understanding of how the universe formed and has evolved over billions of years.
“This incredible mission will be a treasure trove of unique data for astronomers, and will provide an unprecedented galactic map containing ‘fingerprints’ from the earliest moments of the universe’s history,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s science mission board. So he says that “we will have new clues to one of the greatest mysteries of science: what made the universe expand so rapidly less than a nanosecond after the Big Bang?”
SPHEREx will search every six months for new areas of the sky, also identifying targets for further study by other missions. In this way, SPHEREx will be able to indicate particularly interesting objects so that, for example, the James Webb telescope (Hubble’s successor) will study them with even greater detail in the near future.