Portugal leads system development for a space telescope – Technologies

The Portuguese Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences won the competition from the European Space Agency to lead one of the consortia for the development of the Athena telescope, one of the major missions in the long-term program dubbed ‘Cosmic Vision’ by the European entity.

According to the Portuguese institute, the Athena telescope is scheduled for launch in 2031 and will allow to know how black holes with the mass of millions of suns determined the formation of the first galaxies and the evolution of galaxies like ours.

They can also help to understand how these galaxies were arranged in structures spanning hundreds of millions of light years and which are the “skeleton” of the Universe, according to the statement sent.

“The system we are going to make is an optical instrument that allows checking the direction of the mirror and ensuring that there are no lateral displacements with an error greater than one hundredth of a millimeter between the sensor of each instrument and the focal point of the mirror. mirror is 12 meters away. It is very strict “, says Manuel Abreu, member of the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences and professor at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon.

As explained by Abreu, later, “with the telescope already in space, there is an initial calibration process. The whole system suffered thermal stresses and vibrations inside the rocket, and there is a great probability of not arriving aligned”.

In this contract, the Portuguese entity will lead the development of a measurement system that ensures that the telescope’s mirror, 2.5 meters in diameter, will be pointing precisely at the sensor of each of the two scientific instruments.

Since 2013, researchers from the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences have also participated in the development of one of these instruments, a large-field imaging camera, so the institute is present both in science and in the engineering of this future observatory dedicated to the universe of high energies. .