SPHEREx mission got a traveling companion

NASA has decided on a passing cargo for the SPHEREx infrared telescope. Together with it, several satellites of the PUNCH (Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere) mission will be launched into space, the purpose of which will be to study the solar corona and wind.

Objectives of the SPHEREx Telescope

The SPHEREx telescope (Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization, and Ices Explorer) is designed for near-infrared observations. Its main goal will be 300 million galaxies located both in the neighborhood of the Milky Way and on the very outskirts of the observable Universe. The observatory will measure their redshifts. It is expected that the SPHEREx data will help astronomers better understand how the evolution of our world took place during the era of reionization (about 13 billion years ago).

SPHEREx Observatory (concept). Source: Caltech

The telescope will also study our Galaxy. It will perform observations of 100 million stars and regions of active star formation. The main purpose of these observations is to try to find an answer to the question of how common the main ingredients necessary for terrestrial life (water and organic molecules) are in the Milky Way. Another goal of the SPHEREx mission will be protoplanetary disks around newborn luminaries. 

PUNCH Mission

SPHEREx will not go into space alone. As it became known from a recent publication on the NASA website, it will be accompanied by four cubesats that are part of the PUNCH mission. They will be launched into a 570-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit and will study the Sun.

Assembling one of the PUNCH satellites. Source: STFC RAL Space

PUNCH satellites are distributed in orbit in such a way as to continuously observe the behavior of our luminary. They will make three-dimensional images of the solar corona, determine the characteristics of the solar wind and track coronal emissions. The data collected by the PUNCH mission should help scientists develop new methods for predicting solar activity.

The PUNCH and SPHEREx missions will go into space on a Falcon 9 rocket, which will be launched from the spaceport at Vandenberg Air Force Base. NASA has already made appropriate changes to the contract with SpaceX. At the moment, the launch of two missions is scheduled for April 2025.

According to https://blogs.nasa.gov

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