Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


ESA joins forces with Japan on new infrared sky surveyor


A high-capability new infrared satellite, ASTRO-F, was successfully launched last night by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). In a collaborative effort involving ESA and scientists across Europe, the spacecraft is now being prepared to start its mapping of the cosmos.

Orbiting the Earth, ASTRO-F (to be renamed Akari (light) now that it is in orbit) will make an unprecedented study of the sky in infrared light, to reveal the distant phenomena hidden from our eyes that tell the story of the formation and evolution processes taking place in the universe.

Prof. David Southwood, ESA’s Director of Science, said: “The successful launch of ASTRO-F(Akari) is a big step. A decade ago, our Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) opened up this field of astronomy, and the Japanese took part then. It is wonderful to be cooperating again with Japan in this discipline.”

“Our involvement with the Japanese in this programme responds to our long-term commitment in infrared astronomy, whose potential for discovery is huge. We are now off and rolling with ASTRO-F/Akari, but we are also working extremely hard towards the launch of the next-generation infrared telescope, ESA’s Herschel spacecraft, which will go up in the next two years,” he continued.

“This will still not be the end of the story. Infrared astronomy is also a fundamental part of the future vision for ESA’s space research, as outlined in the ‘Cosmic Vision 2015-2025’ programme. The truth is, subjects such as the formation of stars and exoplanets, or the evolution of the early universe, are themes at the very core of our programme.”

The mission

On 21 February, at 22:28 Central European Time, (22 February, 06:28 local time), a Japanese M-V rocket blasted off from the Uchinoura Space Centre, in the Kagoshima district of Japan, carrying the new infrared satellite into space.

In about two weeks’ time, ASTRO-F will be in polar orbit around the Earth at an altitude of 745 kilometres. From there, after two months of system check-outs and performance verification, it will survey the whole sky in about half a year, with much better sensitivity, spatial resolution and wider wavelength coverage than its only infrared surveyor predecessor, the Anglo-Dutch-US IRAS satellite (1983).

The all-sky survey will be followed by a ten-month phase during which thousands of selected astronomical targets will be observed in detail. This will enable scientists to look at these individual objects for a longer time, and thus with increased sensitivity, to conduct their spectral analysis.

This second phase will end with the depletion of the liquid helium needed to cool down the spacecraft telescope and its instruments to only a few degrees above absolute zero. ASTRO-F will then start its third operations phase and continue to make observations of selected celestial targets with its infrared camera only, in a few specific infrared wavelengths.

ESA’s involvement

Only two decades have passed since the birth of space-based infrared astronomy; since then, each decade has been marked by the launch of innovative infrared satellites that have revolutionised our very perception of the cosmos.

In fact, infrared satellites make possible the detection of cool objects, including planetary systems, interstellar dust and gas, or distant galaxies, all of which are most difficult to study in the visible part of the light spectrum. With infrared astronomy, it is also possible to study the birth of stars and galaxies, the ‘creation’ energy of which peaks in the infrared range.

The European Space Agency and Europe have a strong tradition in infrared astronomy, which is now being continued by the participation of the UK, the Netherlands and ESA in ASTRO-F. ESA is providing network support through its ground station in Kiruna (Sweden) for a few passes per day.

ESA is also providing expertise and support for the sky-survey data processing. This includes ‘pointing reconstruction’ – which means measuring exactly where the observed objects are in the sky, to help accelerate the production of sky catalogues and ultimately produce a census of the infrared universe.

In return, ESA has obtained ten percent of the observing opportunities during the second and third operational phases of the ASTRO-F mission, which is being allocated to European astronomers to perform their proposed observations.

“The cooperation offered to ESA by Japan in ASTRO-F will help keep up momentum for European astronomers as they build on their past work with ISO, and look forward to the launch of ESA’s Herschel infrared mission, in early 2008,” commented Prof. Southwood.

With the largest and most powerful space telescope to date (3.5 metres in diameter), Herschel will build on the ASTRO-F census of the infrared universe and on the legacy left by other satellites such as ESA’s ISO and NASA’s Spitzer. It will reveal the deepest secrets of galaxies and of star formation and evolution, while also studying the chemistry of the cold, hidden cosmos.

| alfa
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>