Featured Missions & Projects - Astrophysics Science Division (660)

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)

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 are designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range. The observatory was launched on Dec 25, 2021.
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Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope

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.
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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 90 gamma-ray bursts per year. Additionally, it observes other transient sources of many types, such as, supernovae, novae, tidal disruption events, black hole transients, and comets. Swift was launched in 2004, and renamed the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory in 2018.
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  • - Burst Alert Telescope

Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR)

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.
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Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER)

The Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER) is an X-ray telescope dedicated to observe timing of neutron stars. NICER was placed on the ISS in 2017 to observe pulsars to both determine the structure of neutron stars and to demonstrate their use as deep space navigation beacons.
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Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

TESS is an Explorer mission that was selected for development in 2013. Launched on April 18, 2018, TESS will conduct a two-year survey searching ~200,000 bright (V=4-12), nearby stars for transiting exoplanets, including the 1,000 closest red dwarfs similar to our Sun. The survey will focus on G- and K- type stars with apparent magnitudes brighter than 12. Simulations of the TESS mission predict that TESS will find thousands of new exoplanets, including hundreds of small exoplanets, and even a few (~5) rocky planets in the habitable zones of their host stars. With the time-ordered photometric data for these targets, TESS will provide the target list for future follow-up observations of transiting exoplanets. Because the host stars are bright and nearby, they will be ideal for ground-based observations and well suited to transit spectroscopy with JWST.
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Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a multi-instrument observatory that has dramatically changed humanity's understanding of the universe for over two decades, with dramatic images of stars, planets, and galaxies. Hubble orbits Earth; its position above the atmosphere, which distorts and reduces the light that reaches the surface, gives it a view of the universe that typically surpasses that of ground-based telescopes. HST's various instruments investigate the universe in the visible, ultraviolet, and infrared portions of the spectrum. HST was deployed from the space shuttle Discovery on April 25, 1990. After that, the telescope underwent five servicing missions to repair or upgrade various instruments and systems.
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  • - Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph
  • - Wide Field Camera 3

High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC)

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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Multi-messenger Operational Science Support & Astrophysical Information Center (MOSSAIC)

Hosted at NASA's GSFC, MOSSAIC brings together current research, capabilities, and resources needed to support MMA/TDA scientists at GSFC and around the world. MOSSAIC scientists, engineers, programmers, and managers are deeply engaged in research and infrastructure development for MMA/TDA science, and collaborate closely with other communities both ground- and space-based. Below we give a short synopsis of our activities and the services currently provided within MOSSAIC.

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