NASA has approved the preliminary design plans for the upcoming Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoque of Reionization, and Ices Explorer Telescope, or SPHEREx as it is is more commonly known. The design approval means the SPHEREx will now enter Phase C, which means work can begin on a final, more detailed design.
SPHEREx is scheduled to launch no earlier than June 2024 and no later than April 2025. Its instruments will be used to 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, and many other celestial objects.
The telescope will be the size of an average family vehicle and will use a technique called spectroscopy to break near-infrared light into its individual wavelengths, or colours, just like a prism breaks sunlight into its component colours. Data gathered using the spectroscopy technique will reveal what an object is made of because individual chemical elements absorb and radiate specific wavelengths of light.
“That’s like going from black-and-white images to colour; it’s like going from Kansas to Oz,” said Allen Farrington, the SPHEREx project manager at JPL.
SPHEREx, a space observatory that will map out the universe in light our eyes cannot see, has moved into a new development phase. The team can now begin creating a final design and building some of the hardware and software components. https://t.co/EvXu6mhjZd pic.twitter.com/63m8lizZQT
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) January 5, 2021
The SPHEREx team will spend just over two years building the mission components before entering the next mission phase, which will see those components brought together, tested, and launched.
Picture: NASA JPL