NASA

NASA selects SpaceX to Launch the SPHEREx Mission to Study the Birth of the Universe

NASA selects SpaceX to Launch the SPHEREx Mission to Study the Birth of the Universe

On Thursday, February 4th, NASA announced it awarded SpaceX a launch service contract to conduct the SPHEREx mission, acronym for Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization, and Ices Explorer. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will launch the SPHEREx telescope in June 2024 from Space Launch Complex-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and funded by Astrophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, the total cost is “approximately $98.8 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs.”

The SPHEREx telescope is about the size of a car, designed to study the birth of the Universe for two years; It is equipped with instruments that will detect near-infrared light that is not visible to the human eye. SPHEREx will be used to map the wonders of the Universe to create a massive database of celestial objects, including distant galaxies and nebulas. To create the database, the space telescope will use a technique called ‘spectroscopy’, which reveals what objects are made of by transforming near-infrared light into individual wavelengths, or colors, that match the wavelength that specific chemical elements radiate. Detecting and analyzing these wavelengths enables researchers to find out what specific chemicals celestial bodies are made of, which can provide valuable insight towards finding out how the universe and life began. NASA says the SPHEREx telescope will also embark on a “search for water and organic molecules – essentials for life as we know it – in regions where stars are born from gas and dust, known as stellar nurseries, as well as disks around stars where new planets could be forming," the agency wrote in a press release. "Astronomers will use the mission to gather data on more than 300 million galaxies, as well as more than 100 million stars in our own Milky Way galaxy.” 

 

About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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