Featured Missions & Projects - Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory (667)

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 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 2021.
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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

Exo-S and Exo-C

NASA HQ initiated Science and Technology Definition Teams (STDTs) to study two concepts for relatively near-term, small-sized space telescopes aimed at direct observations of exoplanets and debris disks. The technical challenge of these concepts is high contrast imaging - the suppression of light from bright nearby stars in order to image faint objects around them like planets and orbiting dust disks generated by extrasoloar asteroids and comets. One mission concept - Exo-C - would use an internal coronagraph to do this job, allowing observations of planets from giants down to super-Earth sizes. The other mission concept - Exo-S - would use a second spacecraft for starlight suppression - a starshade free flying a large distance in front of the telescope. The second concept could look closer to nearby Sun-like stars, accessing more habitable zones and planets down to Earth size. Exo-C and Exo-S were originally chartered as backup missions to AFTA/WFIRST.
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Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope

The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, formerly WFIRST, was the top-ranked large space mission in the Astro2010 Decadal Survey. It will obtain a wide-field survey of the sky and observe exoplanets. The survey will cover a region of more than 2,000 square degrees at near-infrared (0.6-2 microns) wavelengths. The Roman Space Telescope will employ three independent techniques to determine the effect of dark energy on the evolution of the universe. The mission will also collect statistics on exoplanets around a large sample of stars and will directly detect exoplanets with a coronograph. In addition, the Roman Space Telescope will survey our galaxy and others nearby to answer key questions about their formation and structure and provide constraints on how galaxies grow. The mission will take approximately 10 years to develop.
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Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS)

The Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) is an instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope. It combines a camera with a spectrograph, and covers a wide range of wavelengths from the near-infrared region into the ultraviolet. The spectrograph spreads out light gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope so that it can be analyzed to determine things like the chemical composition, motions, and temperatures of astronomical objects. STIS also has an instrument called a coronagraph. It can block light from bright objects in a region being observed, which make sit possible to study fainter targets nearby. STIS was installed on the Hubble Space Telescope during Servicing Mission 2 in 1997. The instrument malfunctioned in August 2004, and was repaired during Servicing Mission 4 in 2009.
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Stellar Imager (SI)

Stellar Imager is a mission concept for a space-based ultraviolet/visible light Interferometer to image and study the surfaces of stars, with more than 200 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. The mission's primary objective is to provide data needed to develop and validate a predictive dynamo model for the sun and other magnetically active stars. The instrument would achieve this objective by characterizing the patterns of surface magnetic activity for a large sample of sun-like stars; characterizing the internal structure and differential rotation of these stars; and determining the dependence of dynamo action on mass, internal structure, flow patterns, and time by carrying out a population study of sun-like stars.
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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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The Large Binocular Telescope (LBTI)

The LBTI project is a NASA-funded instrument on the Large Binocular Telescope, intended to look for exozodiacal dust and gas giant planets around nearby stars. It serves as a pathfinder for future NASA missions that seek to image directly Earth-like planets and search them for spectroscopic signatures of habitability and life.
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Herschel Space Observatory

The European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory (formerly called Far Infrared and Sub-millimetre Telescope or FIRST) has the largest single mirror ever built for a space telescope. At 3.5-metres in diameter the mirror will collect long-wavelength radiation from some of the coldest and most distant objects in the Universe. In addition, Herschel is the only space observatory to cover a spectral range from the far infrared to sub-millimetre.
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Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAST)

The Advanced Technology Large Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAST) is a NASA strategic mission concept study for the next generation of UVOIR space observatory. ATLAST will have a primary mirror diameter in the 8m to 16m range that will allow us to perform some of the most challenging observations to answer some of our most compelling astrophysical questions.
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Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3)

Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) is an instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope. Astronauts installed WFC3 during the final servicing mission to the space observatory in May 2009. With a "panchromatic" grasp of light extending from the ultraviolet through the visible and into the infrared, WFC3 is an extremely powerful imaging instrument, extending Hubble's capabilities by seeing deeper into the universe.
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