NASA reveals details about the Habitable Worlds Observatory

NASA reveals details about the Habitable Worlds Observatory
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Artist's concept of LUVOIR, a 15-meter telescope that was one of NASA's first concepts for a future space telescope.

Artist’s concept of LUVOIR, a 15-meter telescope that was one of NASA’s first concepts for a future space telescope. The just described Habitable Worlds Telescope would not be as big as this one.

NASA officials revealed information about a planned 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 of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, offered some details about the telescope, which could be operational by the early 2040s.

The need for such observatory is outlined in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Decennial Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysicsa report by hundreds of industry experts that it serves as a reference document for the future objectives of the fields.

One of the Key findings from the most recent decennial survey was the need to find habitable worlds beyond our own, using a telescope designed specifically for that purpose. The report suggested an $11 billion observatory—one with a 20-foot telescope that would collect light at optical, ultraviolet, and near-infrared wavelengths. (hubble space ttelescope go primarily in optical and ultraviolet light, while the most recent release Webb Space Telescope (images at mid-infrared and near-infrared wavelengths).

The authors of the decennial survey suggested the the Habitable Worlds Observatory as the first in a new program of Great Observatories; basically, the lynchpin of the next generation of 21st century space telescopes. like science reporteddecennial report suggestion of exoplanet-focused space telescope falls somewhere between two majors POT proposalsnamed telescope concepts HabEx Y LUVOIR.

Exoplanets are found regularly; it’s finding worlds with conditions that can support life as we know it, which is tricky. Webb has seen exoplanets Y deduced aspects of its atmospheric chemistryand other telescopes (even planned ones, like the Roman Space Telescope) are turning their look towards these alien worlds.

An artist's impression of the exoplanet, LHS 475 b, and the star it orbits.

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

The search for extraterrestrial life is a relentless objective of NASA. The Perseverance Mars rover is collecting rock samples on Mars to learn, among other things, whether there is any evidence of ancient microbial life in a region of the planet that was once a river delta. (An environment, it is important to note, that Scientists believe it was similar. to where the first known life on Earth materialized.)

Beyond Mars, scientists are hopeful that future probes You can poke around for signs of life in the subterranean ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa or the methane sea on Saturn’s moon Titan.

But those are just places, and hostile ones, compared to Earth, within our solar system. missions like Tess and the Kepler space telescope thousands of exoplanets have been detected, but the fraction that are similar to Earth is evanescently small.

As the Webb ttelescope, the future observatory will be located in L2, a region of space a million miles from Earth that allows objects to remain in position with relatively low fuel consumption. (By saving fuel, mission life is extended.)

What reported by scienceClampin said the Habitable Worlds Observatory would be designed for maintenance and upgrades, which Webb is not. That could make the upcoming observatory a more permanent presence in NASA’s collection of space telescopes.

hubble was famous served by humans in low earth orbit several times, due to a series of Snafus and mechanical problems that have arisen over the telescope 32-year tenure in space.

Repairs and upgrades to the Habitable Worlds Observatory (to be carried out a million miles from Earth—a bit far for human repairs) would be done robotically, more in the style of a Star Wars droid than a hand from the IT department.

space news reported that NASA imminently start looking for 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 for 2029.

In November, Clampin told a House subcommittee that the Webb telescope had suffered 14 impacts since micrometeoroids—very small pieces of fast-traveling space rock that can damage telescope mirrors. Clampin said the NASA team was “making some operational changes to make sure we avoid future impacts,” and that the telescope was slightly repositioned to reduce the risk of future strikes.

One of the telescope’s mirror segments was damaged by a micrometeor strike, but an analysis by the team found that the telescope “should meet its optical performance requirements for many years.”

Of paramount importance to the astronomical community is that the budget and schedule for the new observatory stay on track. He The Webb project was years late and way over budget. space news reportsyou that’sSome scientists are calling for an accelerated timeline that could see the Habitable Worlds Observatory launch by 2035.

The ball is really rolling on the telescopes of the future. The question is how Sisyphus will get the ball rolling.

More: The Webb telescope detects an ancient galaxy built like the Milky Way

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