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NASA - Next Generation Astronomy Missions


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#1    Waspie_Dwarf

Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 05:12 AM

NASA Sponsors Studies of Next Generation Astronomy Missions

The linked-image press release is reproduced below:

Feb. 15, 2008
Grey Hautaluoma
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0668
grey.hautaluoma-1@nasa.gov  


RELEASE: 08-054

NASA Sponsors Studies of Next Generation Astronomy Missions


WASHINGTON - NASA has selected 19 science teams to conduct yearlong studies of new concepts for its next generation of major observatories. The studies will help NASA make decisions about how it explores the heavens in the future, following the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey.

Every 10 years, astronomers and physicists from across the U.S. work with the National Academy of Sciences to define the future research directions for the fields of astronomy and astrophysics. The science teams' work is part of an effort to ensure that technical and cost input is accurate for this upcoming Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey. The survey produces directions that guide federal agencies such as NASA and the National Science Foundation in planning their programs over the coming decade.

"Astrophysics is truly in a golden age, revolutionizing our knowledge of topics as diverse and compelling as the origin and evolution of the universe, the physics of black holes and the distribution and habitability of planetary systems across our galaxy," said Alan Stern, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "The exciting new astrophysics mission concept studies we are funding will seed preparations for astronomical space missions and paradigm-shifting discoveries across the early 21st century. Today, NASA's Science Mission Directorate is setting sail on a whole new chapter in continued U.S. leadership in astrophysics."

The concept studies total approximately $12 million in fiscal years 2008 and 2009, ranging in cost from $250,000 to $1 million. Among the ideas selected for further study as potential new space telescopes are:

-A study of the organic molecules in interstellar space and star-forming clouds (Scott Sandford, NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.);
-A census of black holes in our galaxy and distant galaxies and of the birth of stellar black holes in the early universe (Jonathan Grindlay, Harvard College Observatory, Cambridge, Mass.);
-A test of theories that predict a rapid inflationary expansion when the universe was less than a fraction of a second old by characterizing the distribution of distant galaxies (Gary Melnick, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge);
-Observations of faint signatures of polarized light in the cosmic microwave background that will also reveal information about inflationary expansion (Stephan Meyer, University of Chicago);
-Exploration of the origins of cosmic rays (James Adams, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.).

Several different methods to search for and characterize exoplanets, planets that orbit a star outside our solar system, also were chosen. Among these approaches are:

- Precise mapping of the movements of stars induced by planets circling them (Geoffrey Marcy, University of California, Berkeley);
-Direct imaging of giant planets around nearby stars (Mark Clampin, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; Olivier Guyon, University of Arizona; Tuscon; John Trauger and Michael Shao, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.);
-Imaging nearby Earth-sized worlds using large telescopes with multiple instruments and separate spacecraft to block the light from these exoplanets' host star (Webster Cash, University of Colorado, Boulder; David Spergel, Princeton University, N.J.).

Some of the proposals explore a powerful new combination of telescopes and instruments optimized for observing the tenuous filaments of intergalactic hydrogen gas known as the cosmic web gas (Kenneth Sembach, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore) or star formation in our own and distant galaxies (Paul Scowen, Arizona State University, Tempe).

Another mission would place two laser beacons on Mars. Precise measurements of the distance to these beacons would provide the most stringent test yet of Einstein's theory of general relativity (Thomas Murphy, University of California, San Diego).

NASA also will sponsor studies about how to create the next generation of extremely precise and large optics for X-ray and optical astronomy (Roger Brissenden; Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory; Marc Postman, Space Telescope Science Institute). Another study investigates the possibility of putting an extremely large array of radio telescopes on the lunar surface to map clouds of hydrogen gas that formed during the infancy of our universe, even before the first stars (Jacqueline Hewitt, MIT; Cambridge; Joseph Lazio, Naval Research Laboratory, Washington).

"The number, range, and quality of the proposals submitted indicate very powerfully the level of enthusiasm in the community for addressing frontier astrophysics research and employing the very latest technologies," said Jon Morse, division director for Astrophysics, NASA Headquarters. "This early investment directed toward the decadal study will pay off in the coming years."

The studies' results are expected in March 2009. Concepts that rank highly in the decadal survey may result in missions that would launch after the suite of missions in development such as the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in May, the Kepler mission, scheduled to launch in 2009, and the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2013.

For more information on NASA and agency programs, visit:
_http://www.nasa.gov

-end -

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Source: NASA Press Release 08-054

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#2    Waspie_Dwarf

Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 05:15 AM

STScI Astronomers to Head Two Studies of Next Generation Astronomy Missions

February 15, 2008 11:00 AM (EST)
News Release Number: STScI-2008-12

linked-image
Two astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md., Dr. Marc Postman and Dr. Ken Sembach, have been selected among 19 science teams to conduct year-long studies of new concepts for NASA's next generation of major observatories. The studies will help the agency make decisions about how it explores the heavens in the future, following the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey.

Postman's group will study the feasibility of building the Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAS Telescope), which will have more than 40 times the sensitivity of the Hubble Space Telescope. The telescope would have a primary mirror that could be as large as 16 meters in diameter, and could be carried aboard NASA's planned Ares V heavy-lift launch vehicle. The telescope would be located 1 million miles away at a gravitational balancing point in space called L2, where the James Webb Space Telescope will be perched when it is launched in 2013.

"The ATLAS telescope will revolutionize astronomy. It will enable us to definitively answer the question: 'Are there life-bearing Earth-like planets in our Galaxy?' Postman said. "It will allow us to map the dark matter around galaxies in unprecedented detail, giving us fundamentally new insights into how structure in the universe develops over time. And it will allow us to detect individual Sun-like stars in galaxies as far away as 30 million light-years, allowing us to reconstruct the assembly histories of 20 times as many galaxies as we can do with current telescopes. The primary goal of our study is to identify a path to developing the key technologies that we need to bring us to a state-of-the-art that, in ten years from now, will allow us to build a telescope much more powerful than Hubble but at similar cost."

Ken Sembach's team will study the feasibility of adding ultraviolet spectrographs to large space telescopes. This novel instrumentation will bolster observational cosmology by examining the "cosmic web" in much greater detail than is possible with Hubble or the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer. This web is made up of great filaments of dark matter which interacts with the evolution of stars and galaxies. Observations of the cosmic web will provide fundamental tests of cosmological theory.

"Our goal is to reduce the cost of future NASA missions by producing novel instrument designs and a roadmap for investments in enabling technologies at ultraviolet wavelengths," Sembach said. "We expect that such investments will revolutionize studies of the filamentary cosmic web of tenuous gas that surrounds and connects galaxies."

Every 10 years, astronomers and physicists from across the U.S. work with the National Academy of Sciences to define the future research directions for the fields of astronomy and astrophysics. The science teams' work is part of an effort to ensure that technical and cost input is accurate for this upcoming Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey. The survey produces directions that guide federal agencies such as NASA and the National Science Foundation in planning their programs over the coming decade.

"Astrophysics is truly in a golden age, revolutionizing our knowledge of topics as diverse and compelling as the origin and evolution of the universe, the physics of black holes and the distribution and habitability of planetary systems across our galaxy," said Alan Stern, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "The exciting new astrophysics mission concept studies we are funding will seed preparations for astronomical space missions and paradigm-shifting discoveries across the early 21st century. Today, NASA's Science Mission Directorate is setting sail on a whole new chapter in continued U.S. leadership in astrophysics."

The concept studies total approximately $12 million in fiscal years 2008 and 2009, ranging in cost from $250,000 to $1 million.

"The number, range, and quality of the proposals submitted indicate very powerfully the level of enthusiasm in the community for addressing frontier astrophysics research and employing the very latest technologies," said Jon Morse, division director for Astrophysics, NASA Headquarters. "This early investment directed toward the decadal study will pay off in the coming years."

The studies' results are expected in March 2009. Concepts that rank highly in the decadal survey may result in missions that would launch after the suite of missions in development, such as the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in May, the Kepler mission, scheduled to launch in 2009, and the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2013.

Postman is a senior astronomer at STScI and head of the Institute's Community Missions Office, which provides science operations support for a number of additional missions and projects including the data management center for the Kepler Mission and the data archive center for all of NASA's optical/ultraviolet missions.

Sembach is currently the STScI's Hubble Project Scientist, a position in which he is deeply involved in the scientific, operational, and managerial aspects of the Hubble Space Telescope.

CONTACT
Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
410-338-4514
villard@stsci.edu

Grey Hautaluoma
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0668
grey.hautaluoma-1@nasa.gov

Marc Postman
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
410-338-4340
postman@stsci.edu

Ken Sembach
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
410-338-5051
sembach@stsci.edu

Source: HubbleSite - Newsdesk

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#3    Waspie_Dwarf

Waspie_Dwarf

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    Oscar Wilde

Posted 22 February 2008 - 05:17 AM

Artist's Rendition of Possible ATLAS Telescope Design


News Release Number: STScI-2008-12

linked-image

ABOUT THIS IMAGE:
This is an artist's illustration of one of the possible designs for the Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAS Telescope), which will have more than 40 times the sensitivity of the Hubble Space Telescope. The telescope would have a primary mirror that could be as large as 16 meters in diameter, and could be carried aboard NASA's planned Ares V heavy-lift launch vehicle. The telescope would be located 1 million miles away at a gravitational balancing point in space called L2, where the James Webb Space Telescope will be perched when it is launched in 2013.

Image Type: Artwork


Credit: NASA, J. Frassanito & Associates, Inc., and the Future In-Space Operations Working Group, and STScI

Source: HubbleSite - Newsdesk

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf, 22 February 2008 - 05:18 AM.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#4    Waspie_Dwarf

Waspie_Dwarf

    Space Cadet

  • 32,100 posts
  • Joined:03 Mar 2006
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  • Location:Bexleyheath, Kent, UK

  • We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

    Oscar Wilde

Posted 22 February 2008 - 07:55 AM

NASA Selects Space Astronomy Missions Involving CU-Boulder For Further Study

The University of Colorado at Boulder press release is reproduced below:


February 21, 2008

NASA has awarded the University of Colorado at Boulder $1 million to lead the study of a space observatory to find Earth-like planets in distant solar systems and open the search for life outside our solar system.

A second proposal from the Naval Research Laboratory involving CU-Boulder also was selected for $500,000 in NASA funding. The proposal would place a low-frequency radio telescope on the far side of the moon to probe the first structures that formed in the early universe.

linked-image
Artist concepts of a Naval Observatory Proposal involving CU-Boulder to place a carpet-like radio telescope on the moon to probe the earliest structures in the universe. Image courtesy CU-Boulder, NRL

The CU-Boulder planetary proposal, called the New Worlds Observer, was one of 19 proposals for major new observatories in the coming decade selected for further study. The New Worlds Observer proposal features a giant, daisy-shaped plastic "starshade" to block starlight and allow a telescope to image the faint light from distant planets circling other stars, said Professor Webster Cash, chief scientist on the effort.

Astronomers will, for the first time, be able to identify planetary features like oceans, continents, polar caps and cloud banks and even detect biomarkers like methane, oxygen and water if they exist, said Cash, who is chair of the astrophysical and planetary sciences department. The 4-meter telescope planned for the project will be larger and more powerful than the 2.4-meter mirror on the Hubble Space Telescope, allowing researchers to record the light from rocky planets tens of trillions of miles away.

The telescope and its 50-yard-diameter starshade would launch into an orbit roughly 1 million miles from Earth, with the parasol unfurling and moving via thrusters into the lines of sight of nearby stars thought to harbor planets, said Cash. About 80 percent of the cost of the New World's Observer would go toward telescope development with 20 percent for the development of the starshade. "This observatory can be built today with existing technology," said Cash.

The Naval Research Laboratory-led proposal, known as the Dark Ages Lunar Interferometer, is for a low-frequency lunar radio telescope that would search for the faint hiss generated by pristine, primordial material as it formed the first stars and galaxies when the universe literally was still dark. CASA Professor Jack Burns and his colleagues will be developing a novel kind of radio telescope with elements embedded within plastic sheets. Astronauts could unroll the sheets on the far side of the moon, shielded from the interference of Earth-generated radio noise and with an unprecedented view of the sky.

Proposals by the 19 teams selected by NASA Feb. 15 will help guide decisions made during the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey in 2010, led by the National Academy of Sciences to identify the most promising space observatory proposals. The 2008 NASA awards for the next-generation of astronomy missions ranged from $250,000 to $1 million each.

"New World Observer is a clean win for us because we got full funding and high ratings from NASA," said Cash. "This puts us on firm footing to compete with the other mission concepts for the right to build the next major observatory in space." The estimated cost to design and build the New Worlds Observer mission would be roughly $3.3 billion, said Cash.

The New Worlds Observer team also includes researchers from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Northrop Grumman Corp. and other research institutions around the world.

In addition, CASA researchers were members of several of the other winning NASA proposals for new observatories. Co-investigators on other efforts included Cash, Professor James Green, Professor Michael Shull and Research Associate Matthew Beasley. Green also is the Principal Investigator on a $70 million instrument known as the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, which will be inserted on the Hubble Space Telescope during its NASA space shuttle servicing mission this fall.

Contact: Webster Cash, (303) 492-4056 cash@origins.colorado.edu Jack Burns, (303) 735-0963 Jack.Burns@cu.edu Jim Scott, (303) 492-3114


Source: CU-B Press Release

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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