Future of Space Telescopes


Set to be launched in 2013 by the European Space Agency (ESA), Gaia will make the largest and most precise 3D map of our Galaxy by studying 1% of approximately 100 billion stars over a five year period.

It will detect planetary orbits, movements, position, distance, brightness, temperature, gravity, and composition for each star that it targets. Gaia will use radial velocity and astrometry methods to detect exoplanets.

Gaia's Three Instruments

1. The Astrometric Instrument (ASTRO)

ASTRO will be used solely for star angular position measurements. It will provide a star's position, motion, and distance.

2. Photometric Instrument

The photometric instrument will be used to detect star spectra from near-ultraviolet to near-infrared wavelengths.

3. The Radial Velocity Spectrometer (RVS)

The spectrometer will provide radial velocity and high resolution spectral data.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)

The James Webb Space Telescope is an international project between NASA, The European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. It is scheduled to be launched later this decade. It is an infrared telescope that will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.

JWST's Four Instruments

1. —NIRCam (Near Infrared Camera)

NIRCam is the JWST's primary imager. It will detect light from the earliest stars and galaxies that are in the process of formation. The camera is equipped with coronagraphs, which are devices that block light from a nearby star so that the camera can take images of faint objects around those stars. 

2. —NIRSpec (Near Infrared Spectrograph)

NIRSpec is an infrared spectrograh that allows the JWST to determine physical properties from the objects emitting infrared light, such as temperature, mass, and chemical composition.

3. — MIRI (Mid Infrared Instrument)

MIRI is a mid-infrared camera and spectrograph. It will allow the JWST to see the light of distant galaxies, newly forming stars, and faintly visible comets. Like Hubble, MIRI will give Webb a wide-field coverage.

4. —FGS-NIRISS (Fine Guidance Sensor/Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph)

FGS-NIRISS will point the JWST at targets for precise imaging. NIRISS will be used to investigate first light detection, exoplanet detection and characterization, and exoplanet transit spectroscopy.