SPICA, candidate for the next ESA M-class scientific mission

The SPICA infrared telescope for cosmology and astrophysics (SPace IR telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics) has been selected from among 25 proposals submitted for the final phase of the study and development of the next M-class mission of the European Space Agency (ESA).

SPICA is a space telescope designed to be extremely sensitive to infrared radiation Unlike what happens with visible light, infrared radiation is not absorbed by the dust that permeates the entire universe and, therefore, infrared observations reveal the universe hidden from visible radiation. < div style = "text-align: justify;">
One of the great questions of current astronomy is to know the processes that regulate the formation and evolution of galaxies. With SPICA it will be possible to detect the spectral 'fingerprints' of many thousands of galaxies over time. With these tracks it will be possible to study with precision the physical conditions of the galaxies and their environments, and thus determine the factors that govern their formation and evolution.

The telescope will have three instruments that will cover the entire medium and far infrared spectrum, with a range of wavelengths between 12 and 350 micrometers (one micrometer is the thousandth of a millimeter). The first is a combined medium infrared camera and a spectrometer, the second is a polarimeter of images and the third will be the largest and most complex instrument, the far-infrared spectrometer SAFARI, which will be designed by a large international consortium led by Holland and with an important Spanish participation.

SAFARI (SPICA Far-IR Instrument , instrument for the far infrared of SPICA) covers the range of wavelengths from 34 to 230 micrometers with more than 3,000 TES sensors. The radiation from the source is dispersed in the different colors that compose it through four diffraction gratings, so each sensor captures a different color. These detectors will allow SAFARI to observe sources a hundred times weaker than those observed so far.

The Netherlands leads, through the SRON, the international consortium in charge of building the SAFARI instrument, with Spain and France as main Co-Investigators. Almost 20 institutions from 15 countries around the world participate in the instrument. Spain leads the optical and structural design of SAFARI through INTA and CAB, respectively. It is the first time that he exercises this leadership in the main instrument of a great scientific mission.

The Center for Astrobiology coordinates Spanish participation in SPICA, both from the instrumental and scientific point of view, to which a dozen researchers from the center contribute.

Spanish participation in SPICA is being financed by the State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation, managed by the State Agency of the MINECO, with important contributions from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The proposal was presented in 2016 by a large international consortium and it will be necessary to wait until 2021, the year in which the final decision will be made on what will be to mission M5 that will implement ESA, whose launch is planned for the year 2032.




Figure: artistic view of the SPICA infrared space telescope. © JAXA, SPICA consortium, University of Nagoya.

 

Fuente: UCC-CAB

 

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