Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

ESA joins forces with Japan on new infrared sky surveyor

23.02.2006


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:
http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEM2MAMVGJE_index_0.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope
13.12.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

nachricht Columbia engineers create artificial graphene in a nanofabricated semiconductor structure
13.12.2017 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science

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: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells

13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cellular Self-Digestion Process Triggers Autoimmune Disease

13.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>