Topic: NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope
Pasadena, CA – In 2004, scientists with NASA’s space-based Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) spotted an object unlike any they’d seen before in our Milky Way galaxy: a large, faint blob of gas with a star at its center.
In the GALEX images, the blob appeared blue – though it doesn’t actually emit light visible to the human eye – and subsequent observations revealed a thick ring structure within it. So the team nicknamed it the Blue Ring Nebula. Over the next 16 years, they studied it with multiple Earth- and space-based telescopes, but the more they learned, the more mysterious it seemed.
Washington, D.C. – NASA is naming its next-generation space telescope currently under development, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), in honor of Nancy Grace Roman, NASA’s first chief astronomer, who paved the way for space telescopes focused on the broader universe.
The newly named Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope – or Roman Space Telescope, for short – is set to launch in the mid-2020s. It will investigate long-standing astronomical mysteries, such as the force behind the universe’s expansion, and search for distant planets beyond our solar system.
Greenbelt, MD – NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) will search for planets outside our solar system toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy, where most stars are. Studying the properties of exoplanet worlds will help us understand what planetary systems throughout the galaxy are like and how planets form and evolve.
Combining WFIRST’s findings with results from NASA’s Kepler and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) missions will complete the first planet census that is sensitive to a wide range of planet masses and orbits, bringing us a step closer to discovering habitable Earth-like worlds beyond our own.
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) project has passed a critical programmatic and technical milestone, giving the mission the official green light to begin hardware development and testing.
The WFIRST space telescope will have a viewing area 100 times larger than that of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which will enable it to detect faint infrared signals from across the cosmos while also generating enormous panoramas of the universe, revealing secrets of dark energy, discovering planets outside our solar system (exoplanets), and addressing a host of other astrophysics and planetary science topics.
Pasadena, CA – Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and a new observing technique, astronomers have found that dark matter forms much smaller clumps than previously known. This result confirms one of the fundamental predictions of the widely accepted “cold dark matter” theory.
All galaxies, according to this theory, form and are embedded within clouds of dark matter. Dark matter itself consists of slow-moving, or “cold,” particles that come together to form structures ranging from hundreds of thousands of times the mass of the Milky Way galaxy to clumps no more massive than the heft of a commercial airplane. (In this context, “cold” refers to the particles’ speed.)
Washington, D.C. – In 2019, NASA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the agency’s Apollo 11 Moon landing, the most historic moment in space exploration, while also making significant progress toward putting the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 under the Artemis program.
Through America’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, Artemis gained bipartisan support this year among members of Congress, the U.S aerospace industry, as well as with international partners, including Canada, Australia, and Japan, and member states of the European Space Agency.
Pasadena, CA – When a new NASA space telescope opens its eyes in the mid-2020s, it will peer at the universe through some of the most sophisticated sunglasses ever designed.
This multi-layered technology, the coronagraph instrument, might more rightly be called “starglasses”: a system of masks, prisms, detectors and even self-flexing mirrors built to block out the glare from distant stars – and reveal the planets in orbit around them.
Pasadena, CA – Scientists have discovered that a mysterious pressure dubbed “dark energy” makes up about 68% of the total energy content of the cosmos, but so far we don’t know much more about it.
Exploring the nature of dark energy is one of the primary reasons NASA is building the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), a space telescope whose measurements will help illuminate the dark energy puzzle. With a better understanding of dark energy, we will have a better sense of the past and future evolution of the universe.
Pasadena, CA – NASA says the feat of staying highly synchronized while airborne can be appreciated by anyone who’s ever seen aircraft engaged in formation flying. In work sponsored by NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program (ExEP), engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are taking formation flying to a new extreme.
Their work marks an important milestone within a larger program to test the feasibility of a technology called a starshade. Although starshades have never flown in space, they hold the potential to enable groundbreaking observations of planets beyond our solar system, including pictures of planets as small as Earth.
Washington, D.C. – NASA has selected a new space mission that will help astronomers understand both how our universe evolved and how common are the ingredients for life in our galaxy’s planetary systems.
The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission is a planned two-year mission funded at $242 million (not including launch costs) and targeted to launch in 2023.
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