Astrophysics at the CEA
The presence of astrophysics within the CEA has always benefited astrophysics and been beneficial to the CEA. Astrophysical activity began in the 1960s. At that time, the CEA wanted to develop nuclear (both civil and military) and had already acquired wide experience in instrumentation for detecting X and γ radiation. At the same time, space studies were starting to develop with the foundation of CNES in 1961. Since X- and γ- radiations from space are absorbed by the atmosphere, it was natural to combine the expertise of the CEA and CNES to develop high-energy astrophysics. Thus SAp became one of the first French space laboratories dedicated to astronomy and, in partnership with CNES, it participated in most of the major astronomy projects investigating cosmic radiation (HEAO, Ulysse), γ radiation (CosB, Sigma, Integral) and X radiation (XMM).
Since the 1980s, the CEA diversified and developed a high technology center. Astrophysics is a driver of technological developments ripe for industrial use because the instruments used in astrophysics require exceptionally high performances, if they are to observe the faintest objects in the Universe. Astrophysics has also become a multiple wavelength science. SAp kept up with the evolutions in astrophysics and the CEA, by diversifying towards a new sphere of excellence : the detection of thermal infrared radiation, based on technological developments in detectors made at Léti, CEA Grenoble, for astrophysics applications.
Since the 1980s, the SAp diversified in InfraRed instrumentation, thanks to technological developments made at CEA/DRT/LETI.
SAp consequently took charge of the development of the Isocam camera on board the ISO satellite (November 1995 – May 1998), and participated in the Cirs instrument for the Cassini mission (launch 1997, insertion into orbit around Saturn 30 June 2004). Development at Léti of new types of detectors required in astrophysics is currently continuing with the production of bolometer arrays as part of the Pacs instrument for the Herschel mission.
In future years, it is expected that technological development and contracting in major space projects will continue to be major activities, justifying the presence of astrophysics at the CEA and giving it a special place in the astrophysics research scene. There are two other areas in which astrophysics looks set to develop at the CEA : computer hydrodynamics simulations, through privileged access to the large DAM computers, and astrophysical plasmas, with the development in particular of laboratory astrophysics from experiments using large power lasers, and ultimately the Mégajoule laser at Bordeaux. «Laboratory plasmas and computer simulations» activity is strongly linked with the study of the Sun by helioseismology, an activity that began with SAp’s participation in the Golf experiment on board the SoHO satellite (launched 1995).
From left to right : ESA : Herschel,(2007-2010).Matrice de bolomètre Léti
pour Herschel-PACS.NASA/ESA : JWST-MIRI
Premier modèle.NASA/ESA : JWST
SAp is involved in the realization of three major space instruments, the PACS and SPIRE Herschel and MIRI, the mid-infrared instrument to equip the JWST.
Last update : 02/07 2005 (552)