NASA reveals tantalizing details about the successor to the Webb Telescope

Artist’s concept of LUVOIR, a 15-meter telescope that was an early NASA concept for a future space telescope.

Artist’s concept of LUVOIR, a 15-meter telescope that was an early NASA concept for a future space telescope. The newly described Habitable Worlds Telescope wouldn’t be that big.

NASA officials revealed information about a next-generation space telescope, the Habitable Worlds Observatory, during a recent session of the American Astronomical Society,

In the session, Mark Clampin, Director of the Astrophysics Division, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, provided some details about the telescope, which could be operational in the early 2040s.

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The need for such an observatory was outlined in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Decadal survey in astronomy and astrophysicsa report compiled by hundreds of industry experts to serve as a reference document for the fields’ future goals.

one of the Main findings of the most recent decadal survey It was a necessity to find habitable worlds beyond our own, using a specially designed telescope. The report proposed an $11 billion observatory—one with a 6-meter telescope that can absorb light in optical, ultraviolet, and near-infrared wavelengths. (Hubble Space Telescope Mostly seen in visual and ultraviolet light, while it was launched recently Webb Space Telescope Images are in mid-infrared and near-infrared wavelengths.)

The authors of the Decadal Survey have suggested that the Habitable Worlds Observatory is the first in the new Great Observatories program; Essentially, the backbone of the next generation of space telescopes for the 21st century. as a flag mentionedthe Ten Year Report proposal for an exoplanet-focused space telescope falls somewhere between two older NASA proposals, telescope concepts called happix And Lover.

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Exoplanets are found regularly; Finding worlds with conditions that could host life as we know it is challenging. web observed exoplanets And Infer aspects of their atmospheric chemistryand other telescopes (even planned ones, such as the Romanian Space Telescope) are turning their gaze toward these strange worlds.

Artist's impression of exoplanet LHS 475 b and the star it orbits.

Artist’s impression of exoplanet LHS 475 b and the star it orbits.

An artist’s impression of the exoplanet LHS 475 b, recently discovered by Webb, and the star it orbits.

Unlike other telescopes—both operational and those still on the drawing board—the planned Habitable Worlds Observatory will look specifically for so-called Goldilocks planets, worlds with conditions that could foster life.

The search for extraterrestrial life is a relentless goal for NASA. The Mars Perseverance rover is collecting rock samples on Mars to see, among other things, whether there is any evidence of ancient microbial life in an area of ​​the planet that was once a flowing river delta. (It is important to note that the environment is Scientists think it was similar To the place where the first known life occurred on Earth.)

Beyond Mars, scientists hope so Future investigations You could scour for signs of life in the subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa or Sea of ​​methane on Saturn’s moon Titan.

But these are just places – and hostile, compared to Earth – within our solar system. missions like he-goat and the Kepler Space Telescope I discovered thousands of exoplanets, but the Earth-like part is very small.

Like the Webb telescope, the future observatory will be located in L2, a region of space a million miles from Earth that allows objects to stay in position with relatively little fuel burn. (By saving fuel, the life of the missions is extended.)

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like Reported by ScienceClampin said that the Observatory of Habitable Worlds would be designed for maintenance and modernization, which Webb does not. That could make the next observatory a permanent presence in NASA’s array of space telescopes.

Hubble was Famous for its service by humans has been in low Earth orbit many times, due to a number of mechanical glitches and problems that have arisen during the telescope’s 32-year tenure in space.

Repairs and upgrades to the Observatory of Habitable Worlds (which will take place a million miles from Earth – a bit further from human repairs) will be done robotically, more like a Star Wars droid than a hand from an IT department.

Space News reported that NASA will soon begin seeking nominations for people to join the Science, Technology, and Architecture Review Team (START) for the new observatory. The first phase of the observatory’s development is scheduled to begin in 2029.

In November, Clampin told a House subcommittee That Webb’s telescope had suffered 14 hits from micrometeorites – tiny bits of fast-moving space rock that could damage a telescope’s mirrors. The NASA team is “making some operational changes to make sure we avoid any future impacts,” Clampin said, and the telescope’s position has been slightly repositioned to reduce the risk of future strikes.

One of the segments of the telescope mirror was damaged Accurate meteorite hitbut the team’s analysis found that the telescope “must meet optical performance requirements for many years.”

It is critical to the astronomical community that the budget and schedule for the new observatory stay on track. It was a Webb project Years later and way over budget. Space News Reports Some scientists are calling for an accelerated timeline that could see the Habitable Worlds Observatory launch by 2035.

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The ball is rolling well and truly on future telescopes. The question is how will Sisyphus roll the ball.

More: Web Telescope Websites An ancient galaxy built like the Milky Way

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