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Courtesy Caltech and Steward

SPHEREx MIDEX Mission Approved: Krause and Eifler Are Team Members

On Feb 13 NASA announced the selection of a new space mission that will help astronomers understand both how our universe evolved and how common are the ingredients for life in our galaxy’s planetary systems. The SPHEREx mission (Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer) is a planned two-year endeavor funded at $242 million (not including launch costs) and targeted to launch in 2023. SPHEREx will survey the sky in optical as well as near-infrared light and serve as a powerful tool for answering cosmic questions.

Astronomers will use the mission to gather data on more than 300 million galaxies, as well as more than 100 million stars in our own Milky Way. SPHEREx has three science goals: First, it will study the physics of the very early universe, a period known as "inflation", during which the universe experienced a phase of extremely rapid expansion. Second, it will map the intensity of light emitted from galaxies across across cosmic time and thereby expand our knowledge on how galaxies form and evolve. Third, in the Milky Way, the mission will search for water and organic molecules – essentials for life, as we know it.

Every six months, SPHEREx will survey the entire sky using technologies adapted from Earth satellites and Mars spacecraft. The mission will create an all-sky map in 96 different color bands, far exceeding the color resolution of previous maps. It also will identify targets for more detailed study by future space missions and ground based surveys, such as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), and the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT).

The mission’s principal investigator is James Bock of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California. Steward Observatory's Elisabeth Krause and Tim Eifler take part in the SPHEREx mission as members of the science team. Elisabeth is developing the modeling and inference framework to constrain the physics of inflation, Tim is exploring synergies between SPHEREx and LSST data to improve SPHEREx's cosmological science return.

You can read more about SPHEREx HERE and HERE and HERE. The Arizona Daily Star article is HERE. The Sky and Telescope article (with a link to an interview with the PI), is HERE.



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