Study: NASA Should Focus on $1.6 Billion Telescope to Find Alien Planets

Monday, 16 Aug 2010 10:56 AM

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NASA should set its sights high, wide, and deep, according to a National Research Council report urging a $1.6 billion telescope to search for alien planets.

The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope should be the top priority for astronomers and astrophysicists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the London Telegraph reported today that the independent National Research Council concluded.

The two year-study, billed as “charting a new course for U.S. astronomy," said the 5-foot telescope, scheduled to be launched in 2020, is one of the most exciting developments in the next generation of such devices.

The billion-pound telescope, orbiting just above the Earth, would search for close habitable planets and “answer ‘fundamental questions’ about the nature of dark energy and search for ‘Exoplanets’ or planets outside the Solar System,” according to the Telegraph.

The 23-member expert panel's recommended priority for the telescope tops an extensive list of projects intended to help NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy to decide on funding proposals during the next decade.

The telescope would “complement” NASA’s flagship project from 2014, the $5-billion James Webb Space Telescope, the researchers said.

Regarding that venture, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday that Webb, intended to replace the Hubble Telescope, will revolutionize astronomy if and when it is completed. That project is $1.5 billion over estimates and three years behind schedule, the Times reported.

The Webb will allow astronomers to peer back to the “dawn of time,” the Times reported.

For the London Telegraph’s report — Go Here Now.

For the LAT report on the Webb project — Go Here Now.

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