The AKARI, Mission

AKARI is an infrared space telescope. It mapped 94 per cent of the sky and made the most extensive survey of our Universe at mid infrared (shorter) and far infrared (longer) wavelengths. It also made observations of selected celestial objects.

The birth of stars and galaxies is often heavily shrouded in dust. This makes astronomical processes invisible even to the most powerful optical telescopes. Infrared astronomy allows astronomers to see how stars are born and is key to understanding the birth of stars and galaxies.

In order to make its sensitive far infrared observations possible the spacecraft’s telescope was cooled down to minus -267 °Celsius by liquid Helium. The supply ran out as expected on 26 August 2007. However, the spacecraft is continuing to collect data in the near infrared, just beyond the range of human sight. The data is currently being analysed by scientists and astronomers, many of whom are from the UK.

Mission facts

  • Originally called ASTRO-F, AKARI was also known as the Infrared Imaging Surveyor (IRIS).

  • AKARI’s Near and Mid Infrared Camera (IRC) and Far Infrared Surveyor (FIS) observed star formation over three generations of stars in the constellation Vulpecula about 6,500 light years from Earth.

  • AKARI also observed the material surrounding a black hole and made the first ever infrared detection of a supernova remnant in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy relatively close to our own Milky Way about 200,000 light years away.

  • ESA provided the ground station ESOC (European Space Operations Centre).


AKARI orbited the Earth at an altitude of 750 km.

The super cooled 68.5 cm diameter telescope observed wavelengths between near infrared (1.7 microns) and far infrared (180 microns).

UK Involvement

UK scientists from The Open University, Sussex University, the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Imperial College developed the software used to process AKARI’s all-sky survey data from the telescope.

For more information, visit the AKARI UK consortium website.

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