Exploring the Mysteries of the Ultraviolet Universe: NASA’s UVEX Mission


NASA plans a new mission, UVEX (UltraViolet EXplorer), to survey ultraviolet light across the sky. The mission will provide crucial data on how galaxies and stars evolve. The UVEX telescope will also capture the explosions resulting from the merging of neutron stars. The mission is set to launch in 2030 and is expected to complement data from other space missions, contributing to a comprehensive multi-wavelength map of the universe.

As NASA continues to explore the unknown realms of air and space, a new mission, UVEX (UltraViolet Explorer), is on the horizon. Targeted to launch in 2030, UVEX will provide the agency with deeper insights into the evolution of galaxies and stars. The mission is an integral part of NASA’s Astrophysics Medium-Class Explorer projects.

“This mission will bring key capabilities in near-and far-ultraviolet light to our fleet of space telescopes, delivering a wealth of survey data that will open new avenues in exploring the secrets of the cosmos” – Nicola Fox, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate at NASA.

Unveiling the Ultraviolet Universe

UVEX is designed to conduct a highly sensitive all-sky survey and quickly point toward ultraviolet light sources in the universe. This feature will allow it to capture the explosions that follow bursts of gravitational waves caused by the merging of neutron stars. Additionally, the telescope will carry an ultraviolet spectrograph to study stellar explosions and massive stars.

“NASA’s UVEX will help us better understand the nature of nearby and distant galaxies, as well as follow up on dynamic events in our changing universe,” said Nicola Fox.

A Complementary Mission

The ultraviolet survey by UVEX will complement data from other missions conducting exhaustive surveys in this decade. These include the Euclid mission led by ESA (European Space Agency) with NASA contributions and NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, set to launch by May 2027. Together, these missions will aid in creating a modern, multi-wavelength map of our universe.

Legacy for Science Community

“With the innovative new UVEX mission joining our portfolio, we will gain an important legacy archive of data that will be of lasting value to the science community,” said Mark Clampin, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. “This new telescope will contribute to our understanding of the universe across multiple wavelengths and address one of the major priorities in Astrophysics today: studying fleeting cosmic changes.”

A Look at the Future

The UVEX mission was selected after a detailed review of several proposals and an evaluation based on NASA’s current astrophysics portfolio. The mission is estimated to cost approximately $300 million, not including launch costs. The mission’s principal investigator is Fiona Harrison at Caltech in Pasadena, California. Other institutions involved in the mission include the University of California at Berkeley, Northrop Grumman, and the Space Dynamics Laboratory.

Since the launch of Explorer 1 in 1958, which discovered the Earth’s radiation belts, the Explorers Program has launched more than 90 missions, including the Uhuru and Cosmic Background Explorer missions that led to Nobel prizes for their investigators. The program is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center for the Science Mission Directorate, which conducts various research and scientific exploration programs for Earth studies, space weather, the solar system, and the universe.

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