NASA Insignia
Far-IR Surveyor

Origins Space Telescope

The Origins Space Telescope will trace the history of our origins from the time dust and heavy elements permanently altered the cosmic landscape to present-day life. How did galaxies evolve from the earliest galactic systems to those found in the universe today? How do habitable planets form? How common are life-bearing worlds? To answer these alluring questions, Origins will operate at mid- and far-infrared wavelengths and offer powerful spectroscopic instruments and sensitivity three orders of magnitude better than that of Herschel, the largest telescope flown in space to date.

At the conclusion of a 3 ½ year study, the Origins Science and Technology Definition Team recommended to the Decadal Survey a concept for Origins with a 5.9-m diameter telescope cryocooled to 4.5 K and equipped with three scientific instruments. A mid-infrared instrument (MISC-T) will measure the spectra of transiting exoplanets in the 2.8 - 20 µm wavelength range and offer unprecedented sensitivity, enabling definitive biosignature detections. The Far-IR Imager Polarimeter (FIP) will be able to survey thousands of square degrees with broadband imaging at 50 and 250 µm. The Origins Survey Spectrometer (OSS) will cover wavelengths from 25 - 588 µm, make wide-area and deep spectroscopic surveys with spectral resolving power R ~ 300, and pointed observations at R ~ 40,000 and 300,000 with selectable instrument modes. The study report also discusses "upscope" options relative to the baseline concept, one of which would include a fourth studied instrument, the Heterodyne Receiver for Origins (HERO), which would offer spectral resolving power as high as 107.

Origins was designed to minimize complexity. The telescope has a Spitzer-like architecture and requires very few deployments after launch. The cryo-thermal system design leverages JWST technology and experience. A combination of current-state-of-the-art cryocoolers and next-generation detector technology will enable Origins' natural background-limited sensitivity.


  • The Origins study team delivered its final report to NASA Headquarters on 22 August 2019.
  • The final face-to-face meeting of the Origins STDT was held at the Simons Foundation in New York. See the Events page for details.

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