Completed construction of the main mirror for NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which will collect and focus light from space objects both nearby and in deep space. With this mirror, the Roman telescope will capture stunning space landscapes, its field of view is 100 times larger, at the Hubble.
Scott Smith, manager of the Roman Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, highlighted the importance of reaching that milestone and highlighted the team’s work. “Success depends on a team in which everyone does their part, and this is especially true in today’s challenging environment. Everyone plays a role in creating that first look and answers inspiring questions, ”he said.
Roman will peer through the dust and across vast expanses of space and time to study the universe using infrared light that the human eye cannot see. The amount of detail these observations will reveal is directly related to the size of the telescope’s mirror, as a larger surface collects more light and measures smaller details.
The main mirror Roman has a diameter of 2.4 meters. Although it is the same size as the Hubble Space Telescope’s main mirror, it weighs less than a quarter. The Roman mirror weighs 186 kg thanks to significant technological improvements. Its surface is hundreds of times thinner than that of an ordinary home mirror. The Roman mirror is polished to the point that the average protrusion on its surface is only 1.2 nanometers high.
The main mirror, along with other optics, will direct light to two scientific instruments – a wide-angle instrument and a coronagraph. The first is essentially a giant 300-megapixel camera that delivers the same sharp resolution as the Hubble, almost 100 times the field of view. Using this tool, scientists will be able to map the structure and distribution of invisible dark matter, study planetary systems around other stars, and study how the universe has evolved to its current state.
The coronagraph demonstrates technology that blocks the radiance of stars and allows astronomers to directly display planets in orbit around them. If the coronagraph technology works as expected, it will see planets nearly a billion times fainter than their parent star and allow detailed studies of giant planets around other suns.
Roman will observe from a vantage point about 930,000 miles (1.5 million km) from Earth in a direction opposite to the Sun. The barrel-shaped telescope will help block unwanted light from the Sun, Earth, and Moon, while the spacecraft’s remote location will help keep instruments cool, ensuring it can detect weak infrared signals.
The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope is operated at Goddard with contributions from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech / IPAC in Pasadena, California, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and a scientific team made up of scientists from US research institutes.