With all the excitement about the James Webb Space Telescope coming online shortly, we do not want to forget about another space telescope in development. NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, expected to be launched in 2027, will be even more productive than the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA noted the new space telescope will be:
Providing the same crisp infrared resolution as Hubble over a field of view 200 times larger, Roman will conduct sweeping cosmic surveys that would take hundreds of years using Hubble. Roman will map stars, galaxies, and dark matter to explore the formation and evolution of large cosmic structures, like clusters and superclusters of galaxies, and investigate dark energy, which is thought to accelerate the expansion of the universe.
The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will also have a Coronagraph Instrument that will be able to detect more exoplanets, including smaller, rocky exoplanets similar to Earth. By using the parent star’s reflected light on a larger exoplanet, this instrument will also allow astronomers to analyze the colors of the exoplanet’s atmosphere and learn more about the content of that atmosphere (complementing other studies of large exoplanets, one of which was noted here earlier). If successful, this technology could be refined further to one day help to detect oxygen, methane, and other elements/compounds in the atmosphere of distant, Earth-sized exoplanets.
Astronomer Vanessa Bailey from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory stated:
To image Earth-like planets, we’ll need 10,000 times better performance than today’s instruments provide…The Coronagraph Instrument will perform several hundred times better than current instruments, so we will be able to see Jupiter-like planets that are more than 100 million times fainter than their host stars.
The telescope is named after Nancy Grace Roman, who was NASA’s first chief astronomer and also known as the “Mother of Hubble” for her efforts in making the Hubble Space Telescope a reality. You can read more about her here.