NASA’s new telescope, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), comes with a view that’s 100 times bigger than that of the Hubble Space Telescope, and is designed to “unravel the secrets of dark energy and dark matter, and explore the evolution of the cosmos.” It will also, according to NASA, help researchers seek out new candidates like Earth when it launches in the 2020s.
NASA says this new telescope will use a wide-field instrument for surveys, and a coronagraph instrument that will block the glare of individual stars. By blocking glare, the coronagraph will possess the ability to measure the chemical makeup of planetary atmospheres, making it easier for scientists to understand the origin of these far away worlds.
NASA further explained the purpose of WFIRST:
The survey will net thousands of new exoplanets similar in size and distance from their star as those in our own solar system, complementing the work started by NASA’s Kepler mission and the upcoming work of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.
Employing multiple techniques, astronomers also will 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.
In addition, WFIRST will be capable of measuring shapes, positions and distances of millions of galaxies, and track the growth of cosmic structures.
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