November 30, 2021

Beyond Going Long

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What after Webb? The next telescope mission will be to find a “second Earth”

The construction of the new telescope was supported by a new administration of the US National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

  • In 2016, NASA revealed a plan for the LUVOIR Space Observatory to replace James Webb’s Hubble Space Telescope and telescope.
  • LUVOIR’s implementation was recently supported by the Astro2020 Summary Report, prepared by a panel of leading experts in astronomy and astrophysics.
  • LUVOIR’s primary mirror should be more than twice the diameter of the James Webb Telescope, enabling space exploration in unprecedented detail.
  • The mission is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2039.

After several delays Recently, NASA announcedThe James Webb Space Telescope will be launched into space on December 18 this year.

But we already know what will happen after Webb. Another space telescope should be named LUVOIR and its implementation is currently supported by a new report export US National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

LUVOIR must explore the universe at different wavelengths, and its main task, in addition to finding the origin of the universe, should be the search for habitable planets.

Bigger, better, more diverse

In 2016, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) submitted plans for the possible construction of four different space observatories. One of them was LUVOIR – an optical UV-infrared surveyor.

As its name suggests, LUVOIR is supposed to observe the universe in a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum – from ultraviolet, through visible light, to infrared.

The primary mirror is set to be more than 15 meters in diameter, a leap compared to the six-meter mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope, which will soon observe space in the infrared spectrum.

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The primary goal of the Next Generation Telescope should be to search for habitable exoplanets in our immediate space neighborhood. Simply put, LUVOIR’s mission will be to find Earth’s twin.

Thanks to its unprecedented observational capabilities, the telescope should be able to discern nearby exoplanets and see if life can be found on them.

Support from scientists

In recent days, the Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020, the acronym Astro2020, has been published. This is a 624-page report prepared by a panel of influential astrophysicists and astronomers.

In the current report, scientists not only supported the construction and launch of a new space observatory, but also recommended continuing research into high-energy processes in space and the evolution of galaxies.

“It is very difficult to find Earth-like planets orbiting other stars, and their discovery is beyond the capabilities of our planned space missions. However, we are developing technologies that will make this possible, and we are close to getting the tools ready for spaceflight.” He said One of the report’s authors, Martin Barstow.

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Barstow is Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Leicester in the UK and has been assigned by the British Space Agency to oversee the LUVOIR research team as an external observer.

“A mission like LUVOIR is a tool we need and it is a very exciting prospect. The search for habitable planets and life elsewhere in our galaxy, in my opinion, is one of the most important scientific issues,” he explained the need to build another Barstow telescope.

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“I am looking forward to answering the question of whether we are alone in the universe during my lifetime,” the astrophysicist does not hide his optimism.

The new mission should be directed by NASA, but the European Space Agency (ESA) will likely be involved as well. Whether the task will actually take place in the future is still in doubt. But if that is the case, it likely won’t happen until around 2039.