The SPICA (SPace IR telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics), the infrared space telescope for cosmology and astrophysics, has been selected from 25 proposals submitted for the final phase of study and development of the next European Space Agency (ESA) Class M mission. SPICA is under the leadership of the Dutch Space Research Institute (SRON) and in close collaboration with the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) and the Spanish space-related agencies.
If selected, SPICA will serve to solve fundamental questions in Astrophysics, such as depicting the formation and evolution of galaxies over time and better understanding the conditions that lead to the formation of planetary systems such as ours.
SPICA is a space telescope designed to be extremely sensitive to infrared radiation
Unlike the visible light wavelengths, infrared radiation is not absorbed by the dust that is found in the entire Universe and, therefore, infrared observations reveal the invisible universe, making it possible to observe the depths of galaxies, the inside parts of gas clouds from which stars are forming and the planets under development.
With this telescope, it will be possible to depict the spectral ‘signatures’ of many thousands of galaxies over time.
With these signatures, it will be possible to study with precision the physical conditions of galaxies and their environments and, thus, to determine the factors that govern their formation and evolution.
SPICA will provide details on the formation of stars and planets in the near Universe
These stars and planets formation processes happen inside thick clouds of interstellar gas and dust that can only be studied in the infrared spectrum.
The SPICA proposal was submitted in 2016 by a large international consortium, with partners from Europe, North America, and Asia, in response to the fifth call for M-class mission proposals under ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme.
The M5, a medium-sized mission with a budget of only $650 million, received 25 proposals from different international consortiums. Of these 25, only have been selected for the last phase of the study. Namely, SPICA, THESEUS, and EnVision, have been selected.
A final decision regarding SPICA and the other two will be taken in 2021 by ESA, which hopes that will launch its M5 mission in 2032.