Israel’s new space venture will use ultraviolet to explore the universe

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Israel’s new space venture will use ultraviolet to explore the universe

Weizmann Institute's Ultrasat project, which is due to be launched in 2023, will take a novel approach to searching the cosmos

Credit: Weizmann Institute of Science
Credit: Weizmann Institute of Science

The Israeli habit of looking at things from a different perspective this week rolled over into cutting-edge space science, with the announcement of a new Israeli-made mini-satellite with no less than the universe in its sights.

Ultrasat, which is expected to launch in 2023, sees in ultraviolet (UV) light, and scientists at Israel’s Weizmann Institute said this “unique configuration will help us answer some of the big questions in astrophysics”.

Professor Eli Waxman and others have set Ultrasat the task of gathering data to shed new light on such questions as the formation of neutron stars, the emission of gravitational waves and the behaviour of supermassive black holes.

Weizmann Institute of Science said Ultrasat would “revolutionise our understanding of the hot transient universe” and could capture up to 300 times more detail than the most sensitive UV satellites today.

Weighing as much as a reindeer, the £60 million Ultrasat is a joint project between Israel’s Weizmann, the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and Elbit Systems, with support from the German DESY Research Center of the Helmholtz Association.

The satellite with ultraviolet eyes will also study how stars explode, where the universe’s heavier elements come from, and the properties of stars that may have habitable planets orbiting them.

News of the new satellite venture follows Israel’s collective disappointment in April of this year, after the crash-landing of Moon-bound Beresheet, a privately-funded lunar lander developed by SpaceIL with donations from wealthy philanthropists.

“Ultrasat puts Israel, and Israeli scientists and engineers, at the forefront of a global movement to explore the universe with small, affordable satellites,” said ISA director Avi Blasberger.

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