Spain to lead the first mission of the European Space Agency's Science Programme

News - 2022.11.2

Specifically, the mission is coordinated by the Institute of Physics of Cantabria (IFCA), a joint centre of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the University of Cantabria (UC).

Its main objective is to study dark matter in the universe that, according to different cosmological observables, could be up to five times more abundant than ordinary matter. Due to its properties, its direct detection is very complex and, for now, we are only aware of its existence through its gravitational effects.

It is these effects on satellites orbiting in the halo of galaxies like our Milky Way that ARRAKIHS will be able to discover and characterise in order to reveal the nature of dark matter.

The Minister for Science and Innovation, Diana Morant, stated that knowing about dark matter will allow us to better understand our Universe and thus understand its origin.


The research team responsible for ARRAKIHS will be led by Rafael Guzmán, CSIC researcher, member of the Observational Cosmology and Instrumentation Group at IFCA and professor at the University of Florida, the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), the Astrophysics Institute of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC), the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC), the Astrobiology Centre (CAB, INTA-CSIC) and the Centre for the Study of Cosmos Physics of Aragon (CEFCA), in collaboration with the company Satlantis.

The ARRAKIHS mission (an acronym for "Analysis of Resolved Remnants of Accreted galaxies as a Key Instrument for Halo Surveys") was submitted to ESA's Fast Missions Opportunities programme in February this year, and is being developed by an international consortium, with research centres from Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Sweden, Austria and the United States, in response to ESA's announcement of opportunity in December 2021.

Subsequently, in July, it received support from the Ministry of Science and Innovation through its involvement in ESA's PRODEX programme, managed by the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI).

An astronomical milestone

For the mission, the company Satlantis has designed and developed a binocular visible and infrared camera that will make it possible to image one hundred galaxies similar to the Milky Way, reaching a surface brightness 5-100 times deeper than the best images taken from ground-based observatories.

The depth, resolution and large field of the images provided by ARRAKIHS will be an astronomical milestone and will provide key information on the understanding of dark matter in the Universe.

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