Science and technology

An eye to the near future of astronomy

Millions of galaxies to discover in the new simulated images of the Roman Space Telescope

NASA yesterday unveiled a fascinating simulation showing what we can expect from future observations of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope.



The simulated version of the search based on what may be the observations of the Roman Space Telescope presented by the US Space Agency contains an impressive number of galaxies - 33 million, along with 200,000 featured stars in the Milky Way - and represents only a small part of the potential for investigation of the universe thanks to the new telescope under construction.

"The volume of data Roman will return is unprecedented for a space telescope," said Michael Troxel, professor of physics at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and head of the team of scientists who produced the simulation, "Our simulation is a testbed that we can use to make sure we get the most out of the mission's observations."

The team of scientists drew data from a simulated universe originally developed to support scientific planning at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile and set to go live in 2024.

The design of the new telescope, designed to replace Hubble and originally named WFIRST (Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope), dates back to a decade ago. After various vicissitudes due to the overlapping of other expensive projects such as the James Webb Space Telescope and the missions to the Moon and Mars, WFIRST has received the necessary funding from the US Congress and the launch is currently scheduled for May 2027.

In 2020, NASA decided to dedicate the WFIRST mission to Nancy Grace Roman, the great American astronomer considered the "mother of Hubble" for having created the space astronomy program of the US space agency of which she was the first female manager.

Among the stated objectives of the Roman mission is the search for extrasolar planets through gravitational microlensing, the evolution of the universe and the growth of cosmic structure, with the ultimate goal of measuring the effects of dark energy, the coherence of the theory of general relativity and the curvature of spacetime.

A primary mirror with a diameter of 2.4 m will be installed on the telescope modeled after the Hubble one, but with the ability to operate in a wider spectrum, including the near infrared.