Israeli eyes on the skies

Israeli eyes on the skies

Israel entered the club of spacefaring nations in 1988, with the launch of its Ofeq-1 reconnaissance satellite.

Now, Israel has announced plans to turn its satellite eyes toward the heavens, with a space telescope scheduled to launch in high-Earth orbit in early 2026.

The Ultraviolet Transient Astronomy Satellite, or ULTRASAT, is a project of the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Israel Space Agency in the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology. It will be launched into orbit by NASA, under an agreement signed last month.

The satellite’s receptors will detect ultraviolet radiation that doesn’t penetrate Earth’s atmosphere. The satellite will be able to rotate its field of view quickly, enabling it to examine astral events detected by Earth-based observers in real time. Those astral doings could include, for example, a supernova caught by optical telescopes or neutron star collisions discovered by cutting-edge gravitational wave detectors.

“This is a breakthrough project that places Israel at the forefront of global research,” Dr. Eli Waxman, an astrophysicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science and ULTRASAT’s head researcher, said.

Beyond its expected scientific discoveries, the mission’s success would demonstrate the feasibility of making scientific breakthroughs using small and relatively affordable satellites (approximately $90 million, for the spacecraft and instrument) and will pave the way to Israel’s future space initiatives.

Larry Yudelson

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