AKARI, formerly known as ASTRO-F, is the second Japanese space mission to perform infrared astronomical observations. AKARI was launched on 21 February 2006 (UT) and brought into a sun-synchronous polar orbit at an altitude of 700 km by a JAXA M-V rocket. AKARI has a telescope with a primary-mirror aperture size of 685 mm together with two focal-plane instruments on board: the Infrared Camera (IRC), which covers the spectral range 2–26 μm and the Far-Infrared Surveyor (FIS), which operates in the range 50–180 μm. The telescope mirrors are made of sandwich-type silicon carbide, specially developed for AKARI. The focal-plane instruments and the telescope are cooled by a unique cryogenic system that kept the telescope at 6K for 550 days with 180 l super-fluid liquid Helium (LHe) with the help of mechanical coolers on board. Despite the small telescope size, the cold environment and the state-of-the-art detectors enable very sensitive observations at infrared wavelengths. To take advantage of the characteristics of the sun-synchronous polar orbit, AKARI performed an all-sky survey during the LHe holding period in four far-infrared bands with FIS and two mid-infrared bands with IRC, which surpasses the IRAS survey made in 1983 in sensitivity, spatial resolution, and spectral coverage. AKARI also made over 5,000 pointing observations at given targets in the sky for approximately 10 min each, for deep imaging and spectroscopy from 2 to 180 μm during the LHe holding period. The LHe ran out on 26 August 2007, since which date the telescope and instrument are still kept around 40K by the mechanical cooler on board, and near-infrared imaging and spectroscopic observations with IRC are now being continued in pointing mode.
Infrared telescope Cryogenics Space missions All-sky survey
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The authors thank all the members of the AKARI project for their contributions, without which such a successful mission would not have been made possible. AKARI is a JAXA project with the participation of ESA. This work is supported in part by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan and from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.
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