Nasa to launch SphereX telescope into space in 2024 to search for clues about the Big Bang


NASA reveals plans to launch SphereX telescope in 2024 to search for clues about the Big Bang and signs of life beyond Earth

  • Nasa’s SphereX telescope will launch between June 2024 and April 2025
  • During its two-year mission, SphereX will map the entire sky four times
  • The mission aims to find evidence of what happened straight after the big bang
  • It will also search for signs of water ice and frozen organic molecules around the newly forming stars in the Milky Way 

It’s one of the most fundamental questions in science – exactly how did our universe begin?

Now, NASA has revealed ambitious plans to launch a new telescope into space to help shed light on this mystery.

The space telescope will launch some time between June 2024 and April 2025, and will search for clues about the Big Bang, as well as signs of life beyond our planet.

NASA has approved preliminary design plans for the space telescope, called the the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx), which is around the same size as a subcompact car

WHAT IS THE SPHEREX SPACE TELESCOPE? 

The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) space telescope serves as a tool for answering cosmic questions. 

NASA will use the telescope to gather data on more than 300 million galaxies, as well as more than 100 million stars in our own Milky Way. 

In the Milky Way, the mission will search for water and organic molecules – essentials for life, as we know it.

Every six months, the space telescope will survey the entire sky to create a map in 96 different colour bands.

It also will identify targets for more detailed study by future missions, such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

NASA has approved preliminary design plans for the space telescope, called the the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx), which is around the same size as a subcompact car.

It is fitted with instruments to detect infrared light that is invisible to the human eye. This data can reveal what objects are made of, as well as their distance from Earth

During its two-year mission, SphereX will map the entire sky four times, creating an enormous database of stars, galaxies, nebulas and other celestial objects.

The space telescope will be NASA’s first to build a full-sky spectroscopy map in near-infrared, and it will observe a total of 102 near-infrared colours.

Allen Farrington, the SphereX project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said: ‘That’s like going from black-and-white images to colour; it’s like going from Kansas to Oz.’

The SphereX mission has three main goals.

The first is to look for evidence of what happened less than a billionth of a billionth of a second after the big bang.

During that time, scientists believe that space itself may have rapidly expanded in a process called inflation, which would have influenced the distribution of matter in the cosmos.

The space telescope is fitted with instruments to detect infrared light that is invisible to the human eye. This data can reveal what objects are made of, as well as their distance from Earth

The space telescope is fitted with instruments to detect infrared light that is invisible to the human eye. This data can reveal what objects are made of, as well as their distance from Earth

The SphereX space telescope will look for evidence of what happened less than a billionth of a billionth of a second after the big bang (stock image)

The SphereX space telescope will look for evidence of what happened less than a billionth of a billionth of a second after the big bang (stock image)

The second goal is to study the history of galaxy formation, ranging from the first stars to ignite after the Big Bang, all the way to present-day galaxies. 

SphereX will do this by studying the faint glow created by all the galaxies in the universe, allowing scientists to decipher how the first galaxies initially formed stars.

Finally, the mission aims to look for water ice and frozen organic molecules around the newly forming stars in our galaxy, which could provide key clues to life beyond our planet.

NASA explained: ‘Water ice gloms onto dust grains in cold, dense gas clouds throughout the galaxy. Young stars form inside these clouds, and planets form from disks of leftover material around those stars.

‘Ices in these disks could seed planets with water and other organic molecules. In fact, the water in Earth’s oceans most likely began as interstellar ice. Scientists want to know how frequently life-sustaining materials like water are incorporated into young planetary systems.

‘This will help them understand how common planetary systems like ours are throughout the cosmos.’

THE BIG BANG THEORY DESCRIBES THE BEGINNING AND EVOLUTION OF THE UNIVERSE

The Big Bang Theory is a cosmological model, a theory used to describe the beginning and the evolution of our universe.

It says that the universe was in a very hot and dense state before it started to expand 13,7 billion years ago.

This theory is based on fundamental observations.

In 1920, Hubble observed that the distance between galaxies was increasing everywhere in the universe. 

The Big Bang Theory is a cosmological model, a theory used to describe the beginning and the evolution of our universe, based on observations - including the cosmic background radiation (pictured), which is a like a fossil of radiation emitted during the beginning of the universe, when it was hot and dense

The Big Bang Theory is a cosmological model, a theory used to describe the beginning and the evolution of our universe, based on observations – including the cosmic background radiation (pictured), which is a like a fossil of radiation emitted during the beginning of the universe, when it was hot and dense

This means that galaxies had to be closer to each other in the past.

In 1964, Wilson and Penzias discovered the cosmic background radiation, which is a like a fossil of radiation emitted during the beginning of the universe, when it was hot and dense. 

The cosmic background radiation is observable everywhere in the universe.

The composition of the universe – that is, the the number of atoms of different elements –  is consistent with the Big Bang Theory. 

So far, this theory is the only one that can explain why we observe an abundance of primordial elements in the universe.



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