NASA's Roman telescope. Unveiling the heart of the milky way galaxy

25.10.2023 posted by Admin

Roman telescope. unveiling the heart of the milky way

NASA's Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope is set to unveil an unprecedented look at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy. This mission will keep a watchful eye on hundreds of millions of stars, searching for subtle changes that hint at the presence of planets, faraway stars, icy objects lingering around our solar system's outskirts, solitary black holes, and more. Roman might even set a new record for the most distant exoplanet known to us, opening a window to an entirely different galactic neighborhood, possibly teeming with worlds unlike the over 5,500 we currently know.

Roman's extended sky surveillance, a boon for what scientists term time-domain astronomy, focuses on understanding how the universe evolves over time. This initiative joins an expanding international team of observatories, all working together to capture these evolving cosmic events. Roman's Galactic Bulge Time-Domain Survey is geared toward studying the Milky Way, using its infrared capabilities to peer through dust clouds that can obscure our view of the densely populated central part of our galaxy.

Julie McEnery, the Roman senior project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, emphasizes, "Roman will be an incredible discovery machine, pairing a vast view of space with keen vision. Its time-domain surveys will yield a treasure trove of new information about the cosmos."

Scheduled for launch around May 2027, Roman's mission will scour the Milky Way's core for microlensing phenomena. These events occur when an object, like a star or planet, aligns almost perfectly with a background star from our perspective. Due to mass warping space-time, the light from the distant star bends around the closer object, acting as a natural magnifying glass and temporarily brightening the background star's light. This signal informs astronomers about an intervening object, even if it remains unseen.

The survey's plan involves taking an image every 15 minutes for approximately two months, repeating this process six times during Roman's five-year primary mission, accumulating over a year's worth of observations.

"This will be one of the longest sky exposures ever taken," notes Scott Gaudi, an astronomy professor at Ohio State University. "And it will explore territory that remains largely uncharted when it comes to planets."

Astronomers anticipate the survey will unveil over a thousand planets in remote orbits around their host stars, surpassing the reach of previous missions. Some of these planets may even lie within the habitable zone of their host stars, where liquid water can exist on the surface. Roman can also detect "rogue" worlds that don't orbit any star at all, providing insights into the formation and evolution of planetary systems.

Additionally, Roman's microlensing observations will help scientists investigate the prevalence of planets around various star types, including binary systems. It will estimate the number of worlds orbiting two host stars, akin to the fictional "Tatooine" from Star Wars, building on the work started by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope and TESS (the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite).

The survey will identify enigmatic objects known as brown dwarfs, which fall between the size of planets and stars. By studying them, astronomers can delve into the boundary between planetary and stellar formation.

Roman is also expected to spot over a thousand neutron stars and hundreds of stellar-mass black holes. These cosmic heavyweights emerge when massive stars burn out and collapse. Roman can even find isolated neutron stars, the remnants of stars that didn't quite reach the mass needed to become black holes.

Roman will help identify thousands of Kuiper belt objects, icy bodies scattered primarily beyond Neptune. Some are as small as about six miles across, occasionally visible as they reflect sunlight or as they block the light from background stars.

A similar technique will reveal around 100,000 transiting planets situated between Earth and the galaxy's center. These planets periodically pass in front of their host stars, temporarily dimming the star's light. This method will uncover planets closer to their host stars than microlensing, potentially some in the habitable zone.

Moreover, scientists will conduct stellar seismology studies on approximately one million giant stars. This involves examining changes in brightness caused by sound waves reverberating within a star, offering insights into its structure, age, and other characteristics.

All these scientific findings and more will emanate from Roman's Galactic Bulge Time-Domain Survey, which will occupy less than a quarter of the telescope's observing time during its five-year primary mission. With its expansive field of view, Roman will enable astronomers to carry out these studies in groundbreaking ways, granting us a fresh perspective on our ever-evolving universe. The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope is managed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, with contributions from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech/IPAC in Southern California, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and a science team comprising researchers from various institutions. Key industrial partners include Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colorado; L3Harris Technologies in Melbourne, Florida; and Teledyne Scientific & Imaging in Thousand Oaks, California.
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