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Going global to explore the Universe

The partnerships behind the Frontiers of the Universe flagship project


Date: November 7, 2021
Weizmann Magazine
Rendering of the future Frontiers of the Universe building

Rendering of the future Frontiers of the Universe building

Frontiers of the Universe is a flagship initiative of the Weizmann Institute of Science that aims to transform our understanding of the fundamental building blocks of the Universe and how they work together at every scale. Leveraging the Institute’s global leadership in astrophysics, particle physics, and space mission design, Frontiers of the Universe is expected to generate new insights into the central questions of fundamental physics, while contributing to wide-ranging practical applications.

The list of “blue-chip” players actively partnering with Weizmann scientists associated with the Frontiers flagship is reflective of the scope and enormous potential of this ambitious and multidisciplinary initiative. Highlighted here is a list of the most important of these collaborative relationships.

SPACE AGENCIES: World-leading organizations devoted to space exploration, including NASA, the Israel Space Agency, and the European Space Agency, have signed on as partners. They will participate in the development and launch of ULTRASAT, a Weizmann-designed research satellite scheduled for liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2024. ULTRASAT will detect and measure the UV emissions produced by transient events—like stellar explosions and the formation of black holes—mere minutes after they occur, rather than the days or weeks required by current telescopic systems, and alert the world’s largest ground-based telescopes within minutes, revealing new insights into the cosmos and triggering vigorous scientific follow-up. 

CERN: An acronym for the French Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, or European Council for Nuclear Research, CERN is devoted to the exploration of particle physics—the fundamental constituents of matter and the forces acting between them—and is home to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s most powerful accelerator and the largest machine ever built. At the LHC, thousands of magnets speed up sub-atomic particles to nearly the speed of light, re-creating the high-energy conditions that existed just moments after the Big Bang. Weizmann Institute researchers are prominent leaders in the development of the largest subsystem of the LHC: the ATLAS detector, which contributed to the discovery of the Higgs Boson, and was  designed and built on the Weizmann campus. 

XENON: Located in an Italian lab facility, the Gran Sasso National Laboratory, and buried 1.4 kilometers underground, XENON is dedicated to the experimental detection of dark matter—the theoretically predicted form of matter that is believed to make up more than 80% of the Universe. Weizmann Institute scientists working with this international project have helped design an experiment that seeks to capture the first direct evidence of dark matter’s existence.

GIANT MAGELLAN TELESCOPE: In 2021, the Weizmann Institute joined the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization, ca onsortium of world-leading institutions in astropyhics discovery designing and building the largest and most powerful optical-infrared telescope ever engineered. Currently under construction in Chile’s Atacama desert, the telescope is expected to generate unprecedented knowledge about the Universe. Research and discoveries from this partnership will complement and expand the impact of the Frontiers project.

DESY: Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY), a research division of the Helmholtz Association in Germany, is one of the world’s leading accelerator centers. The accelerators and detectors that DESY develops and builds generate the world’s most intense X-ray light, accelerate particles to record energies. As part of the Weizmann-led ULTRASAT consortium, DESY is producing a camera that will capture and measure the UV emissions that are the “calling card” of transient events in deep space.

INDUSTRY PARTNERS: The ULTRASAT project is also partnering with a dream team of Israeli technology leaders. The spacecraft is being constructed by the Israel Aerospace Industries; the telescope is being constructed by the Israeli firm Elbit Systems Intelligence and Electro-optics (Elop); and the UV sensor will be produced by the Israeli tech company Tower Semiconductor.

Read more about Frontiers of the Universe here.

—Sandy Cash

Frontiers of  the Universe is supported by the Mark Alexander and the Norman E. Alexander M Foundation, Martin and Miriam Kushner, and Vera and Dr. John Schwartz of Los Angeles.