NASA’s upcoming space telescope, the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionisation and Ices Explorer, or SPHEREx, is one step closer to launch. The mission has officially entered Phase C, in NASA lingo. That means the agency has approved preliminary design plans for the observatory, and work can begin on creating a final, detailed design, as well as on building the hardware and software.
Managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, SPHEREx is scheduled to launch no earlier than June 2024 and no later than April 2025. Its instruments will detect near-infrared light, or wavelengths several times longer than the light visible to the human eye. During its two-year mission, it will map the entire sky four times, creating a massive database of stars, galaxies, nebulas (clouds of gas and dust in space), and many other celestial objects.
About the size of a subcompact car, the space telescope will use a technique called spectroscopy to break near-infrared light into its individual wavelengths, or colors, just like a prism breaks sunlight into its component colors. Spectroscopy data can reveal what an object is made of, because individual chemical elements absorb and radiate specific wavelengths of light. It can also be used to estimate an object’s distance from Earth, which means the SPHEREx map will be three-dimensional. SPHEREx will be the first NASA mission to build a full-sky spectroscopy map in near-infrared, and it will observe a total of 102 near-infrared colors.
Source: “A New NASA Space Telescope, SPHEREx, Is Moving Ahead”, Jet Pollution Laboratory California Institute of Technology