NASA’s Nancy Roman Space Telescope will search for alien planets

NASA’s Nancy Roman Space Telescope will have a field of view 100 times larger than Hubble’s infrared camera. It will mainly be used to search for alien planets in the galaxy.

Besides Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA operates a number of smaller telescopes, such as NuSTAR, which studies X-ray wavelengths, and Swift, which studies gamma-ray bursts. In 2027, another large space telescope will join them when the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope is launched. Among his various projects will be the search for new exoplanets and the study of dark energy. The space telescope is named after the woman who spent decades preparing the Hubble Space Telescope for research.

Like Hubble, Roman’s main mirror will have a diameter of 2.4 meters. Its instruments will, however, have a much wider field of view, including one that will be able to see 100 times farther than Hubble’s infrared camera. Thus, the telescope will be able to examine large sections of the sky simultaneously.

Two instruments will be on board the telescope, the coronagraph and the wide-field instrument. Light will be collected by the Wide Field Instrument, a camera that captures light in the visible and near-infrared spectra. By blocking light from very bright sources, such as stars, the coronagraph can better observe nearby fainter objects, such as planets orbiting host stars.

A major area of ​​study for Roman will be exoplanets: Planets outside our solar system. More than 5,000 exoplanets have been discovered so far, but that’s only a tiny fraction of the total number of planets in the galaxy. As part of his research, Roman will assess the number of exoplanets in the Milky Way and determine whether these planets are distributed differently in systems that have them.

To get a better idea of ​​the planetary systems in our galaxy, Roman will be used in a survey called the Roman Galactic Exoplanet Survey (RGES) .

To find exoplanets, Roman uses a particular method. Transit-based exoplanet detection systems, such as NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite or TESS, find many exoplanets using this method. Astronomers use this method to observe a star’s brightness over time by pointing a telescope at it. Each time a planet passes between a star and a telescope, the star’s brightness is reduced. The discovery of exoplanets is based on this method.

In addition to the transit method, Roman will also directly photograph certain exoplanets. The main technique used will be microlensing, which uses the curvature of spacetime caused by gravity. Each time a star passes in front of another, its gravity distorts the light from the background star, and if the foreground star is surrounded by planets, these can also be detected. You can use this method to detect small moons and Earth-mass planets.

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