NASA selects mission proposals to study stellar explosions, galaxies and stars

Supernova Explosion Nebula

Animation showing the formation of a supernova remnant.

Four mission proposals submitted to[{” attribute=””>NASA’s Explorers Program have been selected for further study. The proposals include missions that would study exploding stars, distant clusters of galaxies, as well as nearby galaxies and stars.

Two Explorer Missions of Opportunity and two Astrophysics Medium Explorer missions have been selected to conduct mission concept studies. In 2024, after a detailed evaluation of these studies, NASA plans to select one Mission of Opportunity and one Medium Explorer to proceed with implementation. The selected missions will be targeted for launch in 2027 and 2028, respectively.

“NASA’s Explorers Program has a proud tradition of supporting innovative approaches to exceptional science, and these selections hold that same promise,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “From studying the evolution of galaxies to explosive, high-energy events, these proposals are inspiring in their scope and creativity to explore the unknown in our universe.”

Spiral Galaxy Mrk 1337

This image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope features the spiral galaxy Mrk (Markarian) 1337, which is roughly 120 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Virgo. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Riess et al.

NASA Explorer missions conduct focused scientific investigations and develop instruments that fill scientific gaps between the agency’s larger space science missions. The proposals were competitively selected based on the potential science value and feasibility of development plans.

Each of the two Medium Explorer teams selected at this stage will receive $3 million to conduct a nine-month mission concept study. Astrophysics Medium Explorer mission costs are capped at $300 million each, excluding the launch vehicle. The selected proposals are:

UltraViolet EXplorer (UVEX)

  • UVEX would conduct a deep survey of the whole sky in two bands of ultraviolet light, providing new insights into galaxy evolution and the lifecycle of stars. The spacecraft would have the ability to repoint rapidly to capture ultraviolet light from the explosion that follows a burst of

    Moon Burst Energetics All-sky Monitor (MoonBEAM)

    • In its orbit between Earth and the Moon, MoonBEAM would see almost the whole sky at any time, watching for bursts of gamma rays from distant cosmic explosions and rapidly alerting other telescopes to study the source. MoonBEAM would see gamma rays earlier or later than telescopes on Earth or in low orbit, and astronomers could use that time difference to pinpoint the gamma-ray source in the sky.
    • Principal investigator: Chiumun Michelle Hui at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama

    A LargE Area burst Polarimeter (LEAP)

    • Mounted on the International Space Station, LEAP would study gamma-ray bursts from the energetic jets launched during the formation of a Uhuru and Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) missions that led to Nobel prizes for their investigators.

      The program is managed by NASA Goddard for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, which conducts a wide variety of research and scientific exploration programs for Earth studies, space weather, the solar system, and the universe.

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