Friday, June 03, 2005

NASA Advisory Panel Set Astronomical Objectives For Next 3 Decades

A NASA advisory panel has set overall goals for space science for the agency to pursue over the next three decades. The first is to scan the cosmic background radiation to better understand the initial expansion of the universe. As part of that goal the agency would deploy instruments to monitor gravity waves and how they were affected by the inflation of the early universe followed by the Big Bang Observer which would monitor the ripples from the Big Bang itself.

The next objective would probe how black-holes affect space-time. To support the second gal, the Gamma-Ray Large Area Telescope will study relativistic jets emerging from black holes. The James Webb Space Telescope, the follow-on for Hubble, will monitor the mergers and growth of black holes in the early universe.

Constellation-X, a combination of several X-ray satellites, will measure the properties of black holes. After 2025, the goals include imaging matter as it falls into a black hole.

The third objective is to understand the nature of dark matter. The Big Bang Observer will precisely measure the distance to more than a million binary system containing neutron stars and black holes, giving a precise measurement of the geometry of the universe.

The fourth goal is to better understand the process of planetary, stellar and galactic formation. Using both the James Webb Space Telescope and the Constellation-X array, NASA will attempt to uncover the make-up and structure of nascent astronomical entities.