Departments of Astronomy and Physics receive NASA grants to join Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope Mission

September 5, 2023

Departments of Astronomy and Physics receive NASA grants to join Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope Mission

an illustration of the telescope

Faculty, staff and students in the Departments of Astronomy and Physics will play a large part in NASA’s next large astrophysics mission, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (Roman), expected to launch in late 2026 or early 2027. The selected science teams are charged with developing a variety of strategies and software for the mission’s largest surveys, with research goals ranging from the discovery of planets orbiting other stars to mapping the expansion of the universe through cosmic time. 

“The success of these proposals is a testament to the key role that Ohio State has had in the development of Roman since its inception,” said Scott Gaudi, Thomas Jefferson Professor for Discovery and Space Exploration and University Distinguished Scholar in the Department of Astronomy. “Several of us have devoted a significant fraction of our careers to Roman. We led Science Investigation Teams with similar composition over the past five years, and this allowed us to assemble teams with so much expertise and experience that it would be hard to imagine NASA executing the mission without them. These grants solidify Ohio State’s major footprint in Roman.”

The Roman mission will focus on dark energy and dark matter, exoplanets, stars, and a wide range of infrared astrophysics and planetary science topics. Ohio State scientists involved in the funded projects include Gaudi; Marc Pinsonneault, University Distinguished Scholar and professor of astronomy; David Weinberg, Distinguished University Professor and astronomy department chair; Ashley Ross, research scientist in the Center for Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics; and Christopher Hirata, professor in the Department of Physics.

Overall, the selected grants will bring about five million dollars’ worth of funding to Ohio State over the course of five years, with opportunities for extensions for another five years. Six of the selected projects, including three of the five major project infrastructure teams, include Ohio State representation. Other notable institutions on the science teams include NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The Roman Space Telescope is a NASA observatory designed to settle essential questions in the areas of dark energy, exoplanets and infrared astrophysics. The telescope has a primary mirror that is 2.4 meters in diameter (7.9 feet) and is the same size as the Hubble Space Telescope's primary mirror. The Roman Space Telescope will have two instruments, the Wide Field Instrument and the Coronagraph Instrument technology demonstration. The telescope will have a primary mission lifetime of five years, with a potential five-year extended mission.

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