NASA is planning to explore the universe with an entirely new kind of telescope.
NASA’s new Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is scheduled to launch in mid-2020s and will function as an infrared cousin of Hubble Space Telescope.
The telescope has a primary mirror that is 2.4 meters in diameter, which is the same size as the Hubble’s primary mirror. However, its Wide Field Instrument can image a sky area 100 times greater than the Hubble infrared instrument. This means a single image from WFIRST will be even more sensitive and equivalent to 100 images taken of a patch of sky by Hubble telescope.
“A picture from Hubble is a nice poster on the wall, while a WFIRST image will cover the entire wall of your house.” David Spergel, co-chair of the WFIRST science working group said in a statement.
For years, Hubble Space Telescope has been used to observe both near and very distant celestial objects. It has been providing an unobstructed view of the universe above the distortion of the atmosphere. With WFIRST, researchers are hoping to generate never-before-seen big pictures of the universe. The images taken by Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope will help address a number of essential questions in the areas of dark energy, exoplanets, distant stars and galaxies.
"To understand how the universe evolved from a hot, uniform gas into stars, planets, and people, we need to study the beginnings of that process by looking at the early days of the universe," said WFIRST Project Scientist Jeffrey Kruk at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, "We've learned much from other wide-area surveys, but WFIRST's will be the most sensitive and give us our farthest look back in time."
Once operational, WFIRST will serve as an important tool for the science community. It will provide scientists around the world with most detailed data on universe and allow them to study the cosmos in their own way.
“By building this telescope we're enabling a wealth of science and the capability to address those kinds of questions," said Spergel. "It's deeply interesting not only to scientists, but anyone who looks up at the sky and wonders."
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