Pitt researchers are key to NASA’s next space telescope | Space

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Pitt people helped get the Hubble telescope into space. We were among the first to use the James Webb Space Telescope when it launched in 2021. Now, four Pitt researchers will play an integral role in developing the Nancy Grace Roman Telescope, which aims to better understand the nature of dark energy and of the dark matter that shapes the structures we see in it.

Once up and running, the telescope should help us to better understand the evolution of our universe.

Years ahead of its projected 2027 launch date, NASA has funded four researchers from the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences to begin working on Roman’s infrastructure. With collaborators across the globe, they’ll develop the software and algorithms needed to accurately interpret the massive amounts of data the telescope will collect.

The telescope was named after “Mother of Hubble,” Nancy Grace Roman, who was the first chief of astronomy at NASAs Office of Space Science and the first woman to hold any executive position in the agency. The telescope has a primary mirror that is 2.4 meters (7.9 feet) in diameter — the same size as that of the Hubble Space Telescope. But Romans field of view is 200 times greater than the Hubble, capturing more of the sky with less observing time. Its wide field instrument will measure light from a billion galaxies over the course of the mission lifetime as it helps researchers solve, among other things, the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy.

Searching for supernovae

Pitt professors Mi Dai and Michael Wood-Vasey are part of a multi-institutional team co-led by researchers at NASA, the University of Hawai’i, Baylor University and Duke University that has been awarded $11 million to prepare Roman to better observe and analyze type Ia (one-A) supernovae. These exploding stars are special: they have known intrinsic brightness and so, with a bit of math, researchers can work out how far away they…

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