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Astronomer Nancy Grace Roman to Chart the Unexplored Regions of the Milky Way

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The universe is a vast and mysterious place, with the Milky Way Galaxy being no exception. For astronomers, studying the far side of the Galaxy has always posed a challenge due to dust clouds that obscure starlight. However, the upcoming Nancy Grace Roman telescope is set to change that narrative. Equipped with powerful infrared capabilities, this telescope will be able to see through the dust and unveil the secrets of the far reaches of our Galaxy.

Named after NASA’s first chief astronomer, who played a crucial role in the development of the iconic Hubble Space Telescope, the Nancy Grace Roman telescope boasts impressive capabilities. With a field of view 100 times larger than that of the Hubble telescope, it will have the ability to capture vast swaths of space in each observation. Not only can it peer through dust clouds, but it can also block out starlight, allowing for direct observations of exoplanets and other celestial objects in the infrared spectrum.

One of the most exciting prospects of the NGRt is its incredible resolution, which will enable astronomers to identify individual stars within interstellar dust clouds even at the farthest reaches of the Galaxy. The telescope is expected to create a comprehensive stellar catalogue, showcasing stars that were previously unseen. In comparison to the mapping observatory satellite Gaia, which mapped over a billion stars within a limited distance, the NGRt is set to surpass this feat by mapping over 100 billion stars spread out to 100,000 light years!

Spitzer in solar orbit
The Spitzer Space Telescope observatory trails behind Earth as it orbits the Sun. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In 2021, the Galactic Plane Survey was chosen as the top-ranking idea for surveys, with the aim to explore and map a significant portion of the Milky Way. With an ambitious goal of targeting 1,000 square degrees of sky, equivalent to 5,000 full moons, this survey will provide insights into the stars that populate our Galaxy. The NGRt is expected to complete this survey in just about a month, a timeframe that would be unparalleled by other observatories like the Hubble or James Webb Space Telescope.

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As Catherine Zucker, an astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics Harvard & Smithsonian, highlighted, studying our own Galaxy has been a challenging task due to the sheer size and complexity of the Milky Way. The NGRt is poised to revolutionize our understanding of the far side of the Galaxy, offering a first-time view of objects that have remained elusive till now.

Set for launch in 2027, the Nancy Grace Roman telescope promises to deliver groundbreaking science and unlock the mysteries of the far reaches of the Milky Way. With its advanced capabilities and powerful resolution, it is poised to be a game-changer in the field of astronomy.

Source: NASA’s Roman Team Selects Survey to Map Our Galaxy’s Far Side

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The Moon to Have Its Own Time Zone

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Exciting news has emerged from the White House this week, as officials have directed NASA to begin work on establishing a standard time for the Moon. This new initiative, known as Coordinated Lunar Time (LTC), is set to revolutionize lunar exploration and ensure synchronization between various activities planned under the Artemis program.

Timekeeping plays a crucial role in space travel by facilitating accurate orbital maneuvers, secure communications between spacecraft, and error prevention in positioning and mapping. Without a standardized time system, lunar exploration would become significantly more complicated.

One of the key challenges in timekeeping in space is the effect of time dilation, as predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity. Kevin Coggins, NASA’s space communications and navigation chief, explained that clocks on the Moon move faster than their Earthly counterparts by 58.7 microseconds per day. While this may seem negligible to humans, it can have a significant impact on spacecraft operations.

Currently, spacecraft in low Earth orbit, including GPS satellites and the International Space Station, operate based on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). However, periodic corrections are required for time dilation to ensure the precision and functionality of GPS systems.

During the Apollo program’s moon missions in the 1960s-70s, astronauts relied on Houston time as their reference point. However, with the Artemis program set to involve multiple countries and private companies in long-term lunar exploration, a shared timekeeping system becomes essential for coordination and efficiency.

NASA is expected to collaborate internationally to establish LTC, similar to the management of UTC by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. The proposal for LTC, outlined in the White House memo, acknowledges the need for international agreements and suggests leveraging existing international bodies or platforms like the Artemis Accords for cooperation in space exploration.

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With plans for LTC set to be finalized by the end of 2026, the future of lunar exploration looks promising with a standardized time system in place. This innovative initiative will not only enhance the efficiency of lunar missions but also pave the way for collaborative international efforts in space exploration.

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This news has excited space enthusiasts and experts worldwide, as it marks a significant stride towards a more synchronized and coordinated approach to lunar exploration.

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