Featured Missions & Projects - Astroparticle Physics Laboratory (661)
WFIRST, the top-ranked large space mission in the Astro2010 Decadal Survey, will obtain a wide-field survey of the sky. The survey will cover a region of more than 10,000 square degrees at near-infrared (0.6-2 microns) wavelengths. WFIRST will employ three independent techniques to determine the effect of dark energy on the evolution of the universe. The mission will also collect statistics on exoplanets around a large sample of stars. In addition, WFIRST will survey our galaxy and others nearby to answer key questions about their formation and structure and provide constraints on how galaxies grow. The mission will take approximately 10 years to develop.
The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is opening a wide new window on the universe. Gamma rays are the highest-energy form of light, and the gamma-ray sky is radically different from the one we perceive with our own eyes. Fermi is advancing our understanding of a broad range of topics, including supermassive black holes, dark matter studies, the physics of pulsars and gamma-rays bursts, and the origin of cosmic rays. The mission observes high-energy gamma rays over a broad range of energies as well as more focused gamma-ray bursts. Fermi was launched in 2008.
The Swift mission observes gamma-ray bursts and probes conditions in the distant (high-redshift) universe. The mission consists of three instruments on a spacecraft that can rapidly reorient itself to observe new targets. Within seconds of detecting a burst, Swift relays a burst's location to ground stations. This enables both ground-based and space-based telescopes around the world to target and observe the burst's afterglow. The spacecraft observes approximately 100 gamma-ray bursts per year. Swift was launched in 2004.
INTEGRAL is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission with participation by NASA and Russia to provide imaging and spectroscopy of the gamma-ray sky. The satellite observes the most violent and exotic objects of the universe and helps us to understand the formation of new chemical elements, the extreme conditions near the outer edges (event horizons) of black holes, and other essential astrophysical issues. ESA launched the observatory in 2002.
The Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) studies energetic particles from the sun as well as sources within and outside our galaxy. ACE observations contribute to our understanding of the formation and evolution of the solar system as well as the astrophysical processes involved. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center provided detectors and telescopes for several of ACE's instruments. The mission launched in 1997.
Cosmic Ray Balloon Instruments
NASA scientists have flown several instruments on high-altitude balloons to study the origin of cosmic rays. The Balloon Experiment Superconducting Spectrometer (BESS), in partnership with the University of Tokyo, observes antimatter cosmic rays. The Cosmic Ray Energetic and Mass (CREAM) with University of Maryland, targets high-energy cosmic rays. And the Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder (SuperTIGER) with Washington University, focuses on cosmic ray elemental abundances.
The balloon-borne CREAM instrument was devel- oped for direct measurements of cosmic-ray spectra 1 ≤ Z ≤ 26 at total energies greater than 1011 eV to test models of cosmic-ray acceleration.
The Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) mission consists of two nearly identical solar observatories. One orbits ahead of Earth; the other trails behind. When positioned 180-degrees apart in their orbits, the spacecraft can observe the entire sun simultaneously. STEREO traces the flow of energy and matter from the sun to Earth. It also probes the 3D structure of coronal mass ejections - violent eruptions of matter from the sun that can disrupt satellites and power grids - and help us understand why they happen. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center provided particle detectors and a telescope for STEREO's IMPACT suite of instruments. The mission launched in 2006.
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