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How Will NASA’s New Telescope Help Free Earth Exploration?

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Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope; Detect distant minor planets with no stars. Nancy Grace is the name of NASA’s first astronomy chief.

As astronomers discover more planets in very distant galaxies; They are increasingly confronted with an interesting subset of free-floating spheres, attached, or orbited to a particular star. To further complicate the situation, most of the spheres in this group are gaseous, Jupiter-sized planets; a few even look like rocky planets like our own Earth. First discovered in 2003, these free planets are difficult to find and detect from existing ground-based observatories.

However; A revolutionary new telescope, which will soon be launched in 2025, could help shed light on the possibility that the number of sunless worlds could even be greater than stars. According to research published in the Astronomical Journal this August (NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope), it will potentially be able to see hundreds of rocky free planets as small as Mars. These lightless worlds can shed light on how planets form and what happens to their stars after their stars die.

“The Galaxy may be filled with these free planets or not at all,” says astronomer Scott Gaudi of Ohio State University and author of the new study. “There may be more Earth-mass planets than stars in the galaxy. Now we will have the opportunity to understand this with the telescope. “

Nancy Grace Rome Space Telescope


It takes its name from NASA’s first chief astronomer (who tirelessly supports new vehicles such as Hubble and has made many important contributions to the field of astronomy). For astronomy, the telescope, which will be used in triple-core research, will study dark energy, a special supernova. And it will explore multiple exoplanets through a technology known as a gravitational microlens.

This technique can reveal objects too dark to be discovered by other means, such as black holes or planets. When an object such as a planet passes in front of a star, its gravity causes a very faint glow in the starlight. The weak magnification predicted by the general theory of relativity can give an idea about what is being studied. Unlike many other planetary exploration techniques (microlensing), it can find worlds ejected from their stars, drifting in the darkness of space.

“Microlensing can find planets from some of the Earth’s past to the center of the galaxy,” said Samson Johnson, a graduate student at Ohio State University. Says.

The technique has its limitations. When a planet completes the lens forming process, it continues to drift in the darkness of space, it is not seen from Earth again. But Johnson says it’s not a huge problem (after all, astronomy is full of temporary, one-off events.) “You don’t want a supernova to explode again and black holes to reunite.”

While free planets can fill space, finding them is ridiculous.


The process requires three objects (Earth, background star, and mysterious undiscovered object). Fully lined up. Rather than looking at a single star and waiting for the possibilities to be in their favor, astronomers are instead doing colossal research for the subtle luminosity caused by microlensing, watching hundreds of millions of stars simultaneously. According to microlenses observer Przemek Mroz, a CalTech astronomer, these enormous studies allow astronomers to discover 2,000 to 3,000 potential micro-sensing events each year, with just a handful of orbiting planets.

Earth’s atmosphere creates a situation that can make these small events difficult to observe. What sets this new telescope apart from the rest is that it orbits in space and tracks shorter micro-sensing events that represent smaller planets. Additionally, since most such telescope research has been conducted using optical light, which is the part of the spectrum people see with their eyes, they cannot look through the dust in the center of the galaxy. The novel will use infrared light instead of optics, which will significantly increase the possibility of looking at the heart of the galaxy and exploring free worlds.

The new Earth-sized worlds discovered by the novel could help researchers understand the complex process of planet formation. Previous solar system observations have led scientists to suspect that giant planets, especially Jupiter, are using gravity to launch some of the planet embryos and young planets from the solar system. This has probably been repeated on other systems. The novel can help identify some of these lost worlds and determine roughly how many of them were launched.

But planets do not disappear out of the blue in the first moments of their lives.


Passing stars can drive planets that are only loosely attached to their parent stars away from them. Also, a parent star can push away any planets attached to it as it evolves. In a few billion years, our sun will turn into a red giant. It will throw out enough star material to cause the gravity on their planet to weaken. And it will let some of them go away. Some planets can even form without the help of a star. Recent research shows that a small enough pocket of gas and dust could collapse to form a gas giant, not a star.

Scientists cannot verify the origin of a single freely floating planet. Because while none of the launch processes leave their fingerprints in the world, a statistical look at the general population will provide their insight. “If we find a group of Earth-mass planets, they will almost certainly have formed around a star,” Gaudi said. says. Because self-forming planets need more mass.

Roman’s observations will provide insights into free worlds and how they became travelers in space. “We’re starting to go beyond what we can do from the ground with ground-based microlens research,” says Gaudi. “That’s why we need to go to space and use Roman.”