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NASA has selected new space telescope project to study Milky Way's evolution

A NASA illustration of the Milky Way galaxy. On Oct. 18, 2021, the space agency announced that it had selected the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) telescope to move into development. COSI will study gamma-ray emissions in the Milky Way to chart the evolution of the galaxy.
A NASA illustration of the Milky Way galaxy. On Oct. 18, 2021, the space agency announced that it had selected the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) telescope to move into development. COSI will study gamma-ray emissions in the Milky Way to chart the evolution of the galaxy. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC/Caltech))

NASA has picked a new telescope to head into space, where it will peer out in search of the most powerful light emissions made in the universe.

Radio, visible light and X-rays are all part of the electromagnetic spectrum. These waves vary in intensity, with gamma rays being the most energetic. The most violent and powerful events in the universe, like supernovas and neutron star mergers, produce gamma-ray bursts

After several decades of scientific planning and several tiers of NASA concept reviews, the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) telescope is finally making its way to space. The $145 million mission is slated to launch sometime in 2025, according to the space agency's announcement on Monday (Oct. 18). 

Related: Europe's veteran gamma-ray space telescope nearly killed by charged particle strike

Once COSI makes it to orbit, this gamma-ray telescope will observe the recent history of star life cycles, help map where certain chemical elements were formed in the Milky Way and gather data about mysterious subatomic particles that are the size of electrons but which carry a positive charge.

The mission is NASA's latest small astrophysics mission. COSI is part of NASA Goddard's Astrophysics Explorers Program, which features less-expensive missions that fill observation gaps from other projects so that researchers can gain a fuller idea of what is going on in the cosmos. 

Back in 2016, a version of COSI's instrument called the Compton Spectrometer and Imager Explorer (COSI-X) flew aboard a scientific balloon around the southernmost part of the Earth. One day before wrapping up its 14-day trip, COSI-X detected and localized its first gamma-ray burst. 

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