A bizarrely shaped spacecraft will reveal the secret of water in the Universe

NASA has announced an important update to its ambitious SPHEREx mission, which aims to create a complete map of the starry sky from low Earth orbit. It is planned that the mission will be launched within the next few years.

The SPHEREx spacecraft (Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer), firstly, attracts attention with its bizarre cone shape. The outer cone is surrounded by two smaller cones that act as protection from the light and heat of the Sun and Earth while in orbit, so that the ultra-sensitive instruments work at low temperatures necessary to obtain a clear image of the sky.

NASA employees say that SPHEREx has high manoeuvrability, since it should rotate quickly, scanning the celestial sphere. The deputy head of JPL, Sara Susca, explains that the protective shields look strange, which does not reduce their effectiveness. They are made of several layers of material: aluminium sheets on the outside, and a lightweight but durable aluminium honeycomb structure on the inside.

The main element of the spacecraft, the telescope, is being built by Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado. It is designed to collect infrared light from remote sources using three mirrors and six detectors. Within two years, SPHEREx will scan the entire celestial sphere four times, forming a huge database including galaxies, stars, nebulae and other objects.

Protective housing of the SPHEREx spacecraft. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

One of the main goals of the mission is to better understand the origin of water and other key components necessary for life. To achieve this goal, SPHEREx will measure the amount of water ice in interstellar gas-dust clouds where new stars and planets are forming. 

In addition, the SPHEREx team will study the history of galaxies, exploring their formation and evolution. This would allow them to get more information about how they arose and changed over time.

Another aspect of the mission will be the opportunity to use the map of millions of galaxies created by SPHEREx to study the rapid expansion of the Universe in the first fractions of a second after the Big Bang.

NASA gave the green light to the SPHEREx mission in 2019, and the launch of the spacecraft will take place no later than April 2025 using a Falcon 9 rocket.

According to digitaltrends.com

Follow us on Twitter to get the most interesting space news in time