Hubble replacement gets a name pre-launch (science news).
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.
Considered the “mother” of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which launched 30 years ago, Roman advocated for new tools that would allow scientists to study the broader universe from space. She left behind a large legacy in the scientific community when she died in 2018.
Roman is credited with making the Hubble Space Telescope a reality. Ed Weiler, Hubble’s chief scientist until 1998, called Roman “the mother of the Hubble Space Telescope.”
The Roman Space Telescope will be a NASA observatory designed to settle essential questions in the areas of dark energy, exoplanets and infrared astrophysics. The telescope has a primary mirror that is 2.4 meters in diameter and is the same size as the Hubble Space Telescope’s primary mirror. The Roman Space Telescope is designed to have two instruments, the Wide Field Instrument and a technology demonstration Coronagraph Instrument. The Wide Field Instrument will have a field of view that is 100 times greater than the Hubble infrared instrument, allowing it to capture more of the sky with less observing time. The Coronagraph Instrument will perform high contrast imaging and spectroscopy of individual nearby exoplanets.
The WFIRST project passed a critical programmatic and technical milestone in February, giving the mission the official green light to begin hardware development and testing. With the passage of this latest key milestone, the team will begin finalizing the mission design by building engineering test units and models to ensure the design will hold up under the extreme conditions during launch and while in space.