J-PAS is a new astronomical facility dedicated to mapping the observable Universe in 56 colors. The 2.5m mirror of the main telescope, combined with a 1.2 Giga-pixel camera containing an array of 14 CCDs, will produce high-quality images and a unique spectral resolution over the whole area of the survey, casting a new picture of the cosmos.
The starting date for this multi-purpose astrophysical survey is 2013, and during 5-6 years we will observe more than 8000 square degrees (about 1/5 of the whole sky), using 54 narrow-band filters and two broad-band filters, covering the entire visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum (3500 Å to 10000 Å).
J-PAS will discover an unprecedented number of stars, galaxies, supernovas, quasars and solar system objects, which will be mapped with exquisite accuracy. These observations will provide a huge legacy of images and data that can be mined by professional astronomers and the general public.
The innovative designs of the J-PAS camera and filter system will allow, for the first time, to map not only the positions of hundreds of millions of galaxies in the sky, but their individual distances to us as well, providing the first complete 3D map of the Universe. This massive map is only feasible because the J-PAS camera will be able to measure a low-resolution spectrum for all the objects within sight, obtaining, in particular, the redshifts (z) of hundreds of millions galaxies with an unprecedented accuracy of order Δz≅0.003 (1+z).
This 3D map of the cosmos, along with the largest (and most complete) inventory of objects ever collected, will allow a wide variety of science applications: we will be able to see in exquisite detail the web of structures that holds the Universe together, which will help us understand the nature of dark matter and dark energy; we will uncover how galaxies have evolved since the Big Bang; we will map the geography of the Milky way, as well as our solar system neighbourhood; and we will discover millions of quasars, as well as thousands of supernovas.
The international collaboration that is designing, financing and managing the project is a consortium of spanish and brazilian institutions, funding agencies and universities. The facility is operated by CEFCA in Teruel, Spain, and the team of scientists and engineers includes more than 100 people from Brazil, Spain, the U.S.A. and other countries.