There has long been a limiting factor in the development of space-based telescopes – launch fairings. These capsules essentially limit the overall size of the mirrors we are able to launch into space, thereby limiting the sensitivity of many of those instruments. Despite those limitations, some of the most successful telescopes ever have been space-based, but even with all the advantages of being in space, they have so far failed to find an exoplanet in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star. Enter a new project called the Diffractive Interfero Coronagraph Exoplanet Resolver (DICER), which recently received funding from NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC).Continue reading “If an Earthlike Planet is Within 30 Light-Years, This Space Telescope Will Find it”
Future Space Telescopes Could be 100 Meters Across, Constructed in Space, and Then Bent Into a Precise Shape
It is an exciting time for astronomers and cosmologists. Since the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), astronomers have been treated to the most vivid and detailed images of the Universe ever taken. Webb‘s powerful infrared imagers, spectrometers, and coronographs will allow for even more in the near future, including everything from surveys of the early Universe to direct imaging studies of exoplanets. Moreover, several next-generation telescopes will become operational in the coming years with 30-meter (~98.5 feet) primary mirrors, adaptive optics, spectrometers, and coronographs.
Even with these impressive instruments, astronomers and cosmologists look forward to an era when even more sophisticated and powerful telescopes are available. For example, Zachary Cordero
of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently proposed a telescope with a 100-meter (328-foot) primary mirror that would be autonomously constructed in space and bent into shape by electrostatic actuators. His proposal was one of several concepts selected this year by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program for Phase I development.
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JWST Pioneer Passes Along Advice for Future Space Telescope Builders
After a quarter-century of development, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is a smashing success. But senior project scientist John Mather, a Nobel-winning physicist who’s played a key role in the $10 billion project since the beginning, still sees some room for improvement.
Mather looked back at what went right during JWST’s creation, as well as what could be done better the next time around, during a lecture delivered today at the American Astronomical Society’s winter meeting in Seattle.Continue reading “JWST Pioneer Passes Along Advice for Future Space Telescope Builders”
Webb Can Detect Planets Orbiting White Dwarfs, And Maybe Even See Signs of Life
In a recent study accepted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, an international team of researchers led by Texas A&M University investigate how the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can detect a variety of exoplanets orbiting the nearest 15 white dwarfs to Earth using its Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) Medium Resolution Spectrograph (MRS). This study holds the potential to expand our knowledge of exoplanets, their planetary compositions, and if they can support life.Continue reading “Webb Can Detect Planets Orbiting White Dwarfs, And Maybe Even See Signs of Life”
Next Generation Telescopes Could Search for Intelligent Civilizations Directly
We’re still in the early days of searching for life elsewhere. The Perseverance rover is on its way to a paleo-delta on Mars to look for fossilized signs of ancient bacterial life. SETI’s been watching the sky with radio dishes, listening for signals from distant worlds. Our telescopes are beginning to scan the atmospheres of distant exoplanets for biosignatures.
Soon we’ll take another step forward in the search when new, powerful telescopes begin to search not just for life but for other civilizations.Continue reading “Next Generation Telescopes Could Search for Intelligent Civilizations Directly”
Smaller, Ground-Based Telescopes can Study Exoplanet Atmospheres too
The next step to understanding exoplanets is to understand their atmospheres better. Astronomers can determine a planet’s mass, density, and other physical characteristics fairly routinely. But characterizing their atmospheres is more complicated.
Astronomers have had some success studying exoplanet atmospheres, and spacecraft like the James Webb Space Telescope and the ESA’s ARIEL mission will help a lot. But there are thousands of confirmed exoplanets with many more to come, and the Webb has many demands on its time.
Can smaller, ground-based telescopes play a role in understanding exoplanet atmospheres?Continue reading “Smaller, Ground-Based Telescopes can Study Exoplanet Atmospheres too”
A new Balloon-Based Observatory Could Produce Images as Fine as Hubble
Launching satellites is an expensive business – at least for now. But satellites are necessary in astronomy for one major reason – it gets telescopes above the atmosphere. The Earth’s atmosphere and its associated weather patterns are a massive hindrance to collecting good images. If a stray cloud passes in front of the observational target once over the course of a few days, it could ruin the entire image. Which is why some of the most striking astronomical pictures come from space-based observatories like Hubble. But now, a team of researchers from Durham, Toronto, and Princeton Universities has come up with a new way to get above that atmosphere that doesn’t involve a launch into orbit. They want to use a balloon.Continue reading “A new Balloon-Based Observatory Could Produce Images as Fine as Hubble”
The Roman Space Telescope’s Version of the Hubble Deep Field Will Cover a 100x Larger Area of the Sky
Remember the Hubble Deep Field? And its successor the Hubble Ultra Deep Field? We sure do here at Universe Today. How could we forget them?
Well, just as the Hubble Space Telescope has successors, so do two of its most famous images. And those successors will come from one of Hubble’s successors, NASA’s Roman Space Telescope.Continue reading “The Roman Space Telescope’s Version of the Hubble Deep Field Will Cover a 100x Larger Area of the Sky”
The Kilonova-Chasing Gravitational-Wave Optical Transient Observer is About to be Watching the Whole Sky
Lately there has been a flood of interest in gravitational waves. After the first official detection at LIGO / Virgo in 2015, data has been coming in showing how common these once theoretical phenomena actually are. Usually they are caused by unimaginably violent events, such as a merging pair of black holes. Such events also have a tendency to emit another type of phenomena – light. So far it has been difficult to observe any optical associated with these gravitational-wave emitting events. But a team of researchers hope to change that with the full implementation of the Gravitation-wave Optical Transient Observer (GOTO) telescope.Continue reading “The Kilonova-Chasing Gravitational-Wave Optical Transient Observer is About to be Watching the Whole Sky”
A New Artist’s Illustration of the Extremely Large Telescope. So Many Lasers
Everyone loves lasers. And the only thing better than a bunch of lasers is a bunch of lasers on one of the world’s (soon to be) largest telescopes, the E-ELT. Well, maybe a bunch of lasers on a time-travelling T. Rex that appears in your observatory and demands to know the locations and trajectories of incoming asteroids. That might be better. For the dinosaurs; not for us.Continue reading “A New Artist’s Illustration of the Extremely Large Telescope. So Many Lasers”