Story at a glance…
The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope was just awarded its launch contract.
Set to debut in 2027, it offers a unique set of skills for astronomers to study dark matter/energy, and find exoplanets much more rapidly.
WaL spoke with Program Scientist Dominic Benford about Roman’s capabilities and what its mission might help discover.
While the world ogles the new images released by the James Webb Space Telescope, a new observatory was just awarded its launch contract, having gone through myriads of tests in preparation for a 2027 launch.
Named after American astronomy pioneer Nancy Grace Roman, this new first-rate space-based observatory has a different set of tools for a different sort of job.
Rather than using infrared to pinpoint moments or objects from the earliest periods of the universe, or dazzling the public with images of nebulae, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (NGRST) will look to another secretive aspect of space: dark matter and dark energy, strange material that makes up about 95% of all the matter in the universe.
And while Webb can show us the atmospheres of exoplanets in extreme detail, Roman will be the master of finding them, thanks to the inclusion of a first-of-its-kind “active coronagraph,” instrument.
“The combination of sensitivity, angular resolution, and speed, those are the key things that differentiate Roman from all the other observatories that NASA currently and in the future would have,” says Dominic Benford, Program Scientist for NGRST and who oversees the entire Roman project from science, through to materials and collaborations.
“The unique capabilities that Roman will bring to bear are a combination of being able to cover a relatively wide field of view, at a very high angular resolution, with the kind of sensitivity that telescopes in space are able to provide, and be able to do this relatively quickly,” he told WaL in an exclusive interview.
But with JWST just weeks into its work that promises so much to come, what could this telescope offer to get someone excited?