Featured Missions & Projects - Astrophysics Science Division (660)
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a large space observatory that will operate in an orbit some 1 million miles from Earth. JWST will find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy. It will also peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary systems, connecting the Milky Way to our own solar System. Webb's instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range. The observatory is scheduled to launch in 2018.
The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is opening a wide new window on the universe. Gamma rays are the highest-energy form of light, and the gamma-ray sky is radically different from the one we perceive with our own eyes. Fermi is advancing our understanding of a broad range of topics, including supermassive black holes, dark matter studies, the physics of pulsars and gamma-rays bursts, and the origin of cosmic rays. The mission observes high-energy gamma rays over a broad range of energies as well as more focused gamma-ray bursts. Fermi was launched in 2008.
The Swift mission observes gamma-ray bursts and probes conditions in the distant (high-redshift) universe. The mission consists of three instruments on a spacecraft that can rapidly reorient itself to observe new targets. Within seconds of detecting a burst, Swift relays a burst's location to ground stations. This enables both ground-based and space-based telescopes around the world to target and observe the burst's afterglow. The spacecraft observes approximately 100 gamma-ray bursts per year. Swift was launched in 2004.
The NuSTAR mission will deploy the first focusing telescope for imaging the sky with high-energy X-rays. NuSTAR will undertake the first census of supermassive black holes throughout cosmic space and time, map supernova explosions, and study the most extreme active galaxies. The telescope will allow scientists to explore fundamental questions about the universe, such as what happens at the edge of a black hole, the nature of the mysterious "dark energy" pulling apart the universe, and what powered the Big Bang. The mission is slated for launch in 2012.
The High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC) is the primary archive for NASA missions dealing with extremely energetic phenomena, from black holes to the Big Bang. Having recently merged with the Legacy Archive for Microwave Background Data Analysis (LAMBDA), it includes data obtained by NASA's high-energy astronomy missions from the extreme ultraviolet through gamma-ray bands, along with missions that study the relic cosmic microwave background.
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