• Daniyar Kylyzhov

NASA publishes four small satellite concepts to study the evolution of galaxies and exoplanets


NASA has presented several small satellite mission concepts. The satellites will study the evolution of galaxies, explore exoplanets and search for gamma rays from merging neutron stars.



The satellite concepts have been developed as part of NASA's new Pioneers program. There are four of them - Aspera, Pandora, StarBurst, and PUEO.


Aspera is a small satellite that will study the evolution of galaxies. It will explore hot gas in the intergalactic medium (spaces between galaxies) with ultraviolet light. As noted by NASA, the intergalactic environment is the main component of the Universe, difficult to measure; Aspera will fill this gap. The lead researcher for the project was Carlos Vargas of the University of Arizona.


The Pandora satellite will study 20 stars and their 39 exoplanets in visible and infrared light. The goal of this project is to understand how changes in starlight effect exoplanets. In the future, this will help in the search for habitable planets outside the solar system. Principal Investigator Eliza Quintana of the Goddard Space Flight Center.


The next satellite of the program was StarBurst. He will look for gamma rays from merging neutron stars. Most of the heavy metals, such as gold and platinum, are formed during these mergers. Mergers of stars are registered, including by observatories on Earth, but StarBurst will be able to find them more often - up to 10 per year. The lead investigator of the project is Daniel Kochevsky of the Space Flight Center. George Marshall.


Finally, the PUEO is a satellite that will be launched in a hot air balloon from Antarctica. The PUEO will search for signals from ultrahigh-energy neutrinos. These particles, NASA explains, hold clues to astrophysical processes such as the appearance of black holes and the merging of neutron stars.


“Neutrinos travel unhindered through the Universe, carrying information about events billions of light-years away. The PUEO will be the most sensitive study of ultrahigh-energy cosmic neutrinos ever conducted, ”the agency said. The lead researcher for the project is Abigail Weiregg of the University of Chicago.


So far, projects exist only in the form of concepts, and there is no guarantee that they will be implemented. The Pioneers program was created to help young researchers conduct experiments, but only as long as the cost of the mission does not exceed $ 20 million. As explained by NASA, the low cost is partly due to the thriving small satellite industry, which allows researchers to purchase finished spacecraft. ... In addition, researchers can use telescopes developed by other government agencies rather than starting from scratch.



The program itself is experimental for the agency. NASA has never developed a mission at such low prices and with such tight restrictions. Some of the concepts, upon further study, may require a larger budget, which means that they will ultimately not be approved for flight under the program.

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