National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is all set to formally start an astrophysics mission—the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).
Designed for a 6-year mission, WFIRST will aid researchers in their efforts “to unravel the secrets of dark energy and dark matter, and explore the evolution of the cosmos.” The infrared space observatory has a view 100 times bigger than that of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope which was launched in 1990.
“WFIRST has the potential to open our eyes to the wonders of the universe, much the same way Hubble has,” says John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington in a press release. “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,” he concludes.
WFIRST has a primary mirror that is 2.4 meters in diameter (7.9 feet), and is the same size as the Hubble Space Telescope’s primary mirror. It will have two instruments, the Wide Field Instrument, and the Coronagraph Instrument.
According to NASA the new space observatory will measure light from a billion galaxies over the course of the mission’s lifetime. “It will perform a microlensing survey of the inner Milky Way to find ~2,600 exoplanets. The Coronagraph Instrument will perform high contrast imaging and spectroscopy of dozens of individual nearby exoplanets.”
WFIRST is expected to launch in the mid-2020s.