NASA has unveiled a new mission to start developing the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), once launched, it will have 100 times bigger view than that of its Hubble space telescope. NASA expects WFIRST telescope to help scientists discover the secrets of dark matter and dark energy along with the exploration of the evolution of the cosmos.
NASA, in its press release, stated that the WFIRST space telescope will also help researchers to peek into new worlds outside of the solar system, and could also help in search of livable planets. NASA’s Agency Program Management Council showed a green signal for the project after evaluating the project, its risk, budget and performance.
John Grunsfeld, an astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement:
“WFIRST has the potential to open our eyes to the wonders of the universe, much the same way Hubble has. This mission uniquely combines the ability to discover and characterize planets beyond our own solar system with the sensitivity and optics to look wide and deep into the universe in a quest to unravel the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter.”
Till now, James Webb Space Telescope, which will be launched in 2018, was the major astrophysics observatory for NASA. But, WFIRST became the largest observatory project in NASA’s pipeline, which is expected to launch in mid-2020. Once launched, WFIRST will use near-infrared light with wide angle view to learn more about the structure and evolution of the universe and discovering more about exoplanets.
WFIRST will have a Coronagraph Instrument to block individual star’s glare and reveal more information about the planets orbiting around those stars. Wide Field Instrument carried by the telescope will help survey the space. When individual star’s glare is blocked, instrument can measure the chemical makeup of planetary atmosphere in detail. Such data from different atmospheres of different stars would help scientists to learn about the origin and physics of these atmospheres, ultimately, search for chemical signs of livable environments.
Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division in Washington, said:
“WFIRST is designed to address science areas identified as top priorities by the astronomical community. The Wide-Field Instrument will give the telescope the ability to capture a single image with the depth and quality of Hubble, but covering 100 times the area. The coronagraph will provide revolutionary science, capturing the faint, but direct images of distant gaseous worlds and super-Earths.”
NASA’s WFIRST space telescope’s wide view and sensitivity will enable scientists to search for exoplanets in large-scale by blocking the glare from stars and monitoring the brightness of all those millions of stars in the crowded Milky Way galaxy. NASA expects thousands of new exoplanets’ discovery with the help of the telescope.