The Next Generation of Deep-Space Telescopes
With Hubble now approaching the end of its scientific life, a new generation of spacecraft are set to blast off in the next few years. These missions may alter the way we see the Universe forever. This article looks at the most exciting prospects of the missions, with easy to understand explanations.
Since it's launch in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has produced some of the richest views of the galaxy we have ever seen and some of the most impressive science. In 2015 Hubble has it's last servicing mission and is expected to reach the end of its scientific life sometime in 2020. Over this time Hubble has discovered new star-forming regions in the Pillars of Creation, discovered new galaxies in the Ultra Deep Field and created the highest resolution image ever made of the entire Crab Nebula. It all makes you wonder what the next generation of space telescopes will discover.
Gaia is an ambitious mission to chart a three-dimensional map of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, in the process revealing the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy. Gaia will provide unprecedented positional and radial velocity measurements with the accuracies needed to produce a stereoscopic and kinematic census of about one billion stars in our Galaxy and throughout the Local Group. While this sounds a lot, it actually amounts to about 1% of the Galactic stellar population.
While surveying the positions of over a billion stars, ESA's Gaia mission is also measuring their colour, a key diagnostic to study the physical properties of stars.
Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope
The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is a future infrared space observatory planned for the mid-2020's. WFIRST is based on an existing 2.4m wide field-of-view telescope and will carry two scientific instruments. The Wide-Field Instrument is a 288-megapixel multi-band near-infrared camera, providing a sharpness of images comparable to that achieved by the Hubble Space Telescope over 100 times the area. The Coronagraphic Instrument is a high contrast small field of view camera and spectrometer covering visible and near-infrared wavelengths using novel starlight-suppression technology.
James Webb Space Telescope
James Webb Space Telescope is a space telescope as part of NASA's Next Generation Space Telescope program which is scheduled to launch in October 2018. It features a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror and will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.