From NASA on tumblr: “A Wider Set of Eyes on the Universe”

NASA image

After years of preparatory studies, we are formally starting an astrophysics mission designed to help unlock the secrets of the universe.
the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, aka WFIRST.

With a view 100 times bigger than that of our Hubble Space Telescope, WFIRST will help unravel the secrets of dark energy and dark matter, and explore the evolution of the cosmos. It will also help us discover new worlds and advance the search for planets suitable for life.

WFIRST is slated to launch in the mid-2020s. The observatory will begin operations after traveling about one million miles from Earth, in a direction directly opposite the sun.

Telescopes usually come in two different “flavors” – you have really big, powerful telescopes, but those telescopes only see a tiny part of the sky. Or, telescopes are smaller and so they lack that power, but they can see big parts of the sky. WFIRST is the best of worlds.

No matter how good a telescope you build, it’s always going to have some residual errors. WFIRST will be the first time that we’re going to fly an instrument that contains special mirrors that will allow us to correct for errors in the telescope. This has never been done in space before!

Employing multiple techniques, astronomers will also use WFIRST to track how dark energy and dark matter have affected the evolution of our universe. Dark energy is a mysterious, negative pressure that has been speeding up the expansion of the universe. Dark matter is invisible material that makes up most of the matter in our universe.

Single WFIRST images will contain over a million galaxies! We can’t categorize and catalogue those galaxies on our own, which is where citizen science comes in. This allows interested people in the general public to solve scientific problems.

See the full article here .

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Stem Education Coalition

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.