The space agency is currently developing the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization, and Ices Explorer – SPHEREx for short – satellite which will be the first of its kind.
Experts say the space-bound research tool will map the entire light sphere surrounding the Earth.
This will give scientists an unprecedented view of the Milky Way galaxy and give them knowledge on how everything in our part of the universe was formed.
SPHEREx will be in operation for 25 months, although a launch is not anticipated until 2022 at the earliest, and will map the skies surrounding our planet four times to give space boffins an extremely detailed look at the cosmos.
The satellite has three objectives; the first is to look for an inflation signature known as “non-Gaussianity”.
Inflation is a key signature in the creation of the universe, but scientists are unsure exactly why – something SPHEREx will hopefully answer.
The second is to look for water and ice throughout the planets in the Milky Way which could be the key to finding life.
According to the SPHEREx website: “SPHEREx will be a game changer in resolving long-standing questions about the amount and evolution of key biogenic molecules (H2O, CO, CO2, and CH3OH) throughout all phases of star and planetary formation.
“Molecular clouds contain the gas and compounds that give rise to protoplanetary disks and, ultimately, to planets.
“While ices within these molecular clouds are a repository for important elements, they are also sites of active chemistry.”
Finally, the satellite seeks to answer how galaxies are formed.
SPHEREx will achieve this by mapping large-scale clusters of fluctuating signals which are believed to be linked to how galaxies are created and the mysterious dark matter – another unresolved issue which plagues scientists.
James Bock, Principal Investigator of SPHEREx at the California Institute of Technology, told Astrowatch: “This survey will have broad applications in astronomy, providing rich spectra of galaxies, quasars, stars, clusters and our Galaxy.
“Following the wide usage of previous all-sky surveys like the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), SPHEREx will have a lasting value for the astronomy community.”