ASU To Lead NASA Team Exploring 'Cosmic Dawn'

Published: Wednesday, December 23, 2015 - 8:41am
(Photo courtesy of NASA - Goddard Space Flight Center)
An artist's rendering of NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) space observatory.

NASA have picked a team of ASU scientists to lead a telescope project that will explore the "cosmic dawn" — the formation of the earliest galaxies in the universe.

NASA announced the selection Dec. 18.

The international team of scientists will work on NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), a project that focuses on the study of dark energy, exoplanets and infrared astrophysics.

The WFIRST observatory has a mirror nearly eight feet in diameter — the same size as the primary mirror on Hubble Space Telescope. The field view on the telescope is 100 times greater than Hubble, and it will measure light from 380 million galaxies, according to ASU.

“A six-month survey with WFIRST will be equivalent to about 100 years of Hubble Space Telescope infrared observations," said Sangeeta Malhotra, a team member with the ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration.

ASU scientists Rolf Jansen, James Rhoads, Rogier Windhorst and Vithal Tilvi are also part of the six-year mission, which plans to launch an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) in 2024.

“We made the case to NASA that WFIRST can and should explore this exciting time in cosmic history, in tandem with its primary science goals of studying dark energy and finding extrasolar planets,” said Rhoads, who is leading the effort. “And we put together a team with the scientific and technical expertise to help plan for that.”

Other team members include researchers from University of Texas, Texas A&M, University of Arizona, Stockholm University and Uppsala University in Sweden.