SPHEREx Photon Shields Assembled
Part of one of the protective photon shields for NASA's SPHEREx telescope are shown here being assembled at Applied Aerospace Structures in Stockton, California, in July 2023. Short for Specto-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer, SPHEREx will create a map of the cosmos like no other, imaging the entire sky and gathering information about millions of galaxies. With this map, scientists will study what happened in the first fraction of a second after the big bang, the history of galaxy evolution, and the origins of water in planetary systems in our galaxy.
The three concentric photon shields will surround the SPHEREx telescope to protect it from nearby light sources that could overwhelm its detectors. The shields will primarily block light from the Sun and the Earth.
They also block heat, because SPHEREx needs to be kept cold – below minus 350 degrees Fahrenheit (about minus 210 degrees Celsius). That's because SPHEREx detects infrared light, which is sometimes called heat radiation because it's emitted by anything warm. The heat from SPHEREx's own detectors could overwhelm their ability to detect faint cosmic objects if they aren't cooled down.
SPHEREx is managed by JPL for NASA's Astrophysics Division within the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Ball Aerospace built the telescope and will supply the spacecraft bus. The science analysis of the SPHEREx data will be conducted by a team of scientists located at 10 institutions across the U.S. and in South Korea. Data will be processed and archived at IPAC at Caltech. The SPHEREx data set will be publicly available.
For more information about the SPHEREx mission, visit: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/spherex/