24/7 Space News
STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Why the Roman Space Telescope will study the flickering lights of the Milky Way
In current plans, the survey will involve taking an image every 15 minutes around the clock for about two months. Astronomers will repeat the process six times over Roman's five-year primary mission for a combined total of more than a year of observations.
ADVERTISEMENT
Why the Roman Space Telescope will study the flickering lights of the Milky Way
by Ashley Balzer for GSFC News
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Oct 31, 2023

NASA's Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will provide one of the deepest-ever views into the heart of our Milky Way galaxy. The mission will monitor hundreds of millions of stars in search of tell-tale flickers that betray the presence of planets, distant stars, small icy objects that haunt the outskirts of our solar system, isolated black holes, and more. Roman will likely set a new record for the farthest-known exoplanet, offering a glimpse of a different galactic neighborhood that could be home to worlds quite unlike the more than 5,500 that are currently known.

Roman's long-term sky monitoring, which will enable these results, represents a boon to what scientists call time-domain astronomy, which studies how the universe changes over time. Roman will join a growing, international fleet of observatories working together to capture these changes as they unfold. Roman's Galactic Bulge Time-Domain Survey will focus on the Milky Way, using the telescope's infrared vision to see through clouds of dust that can block our view of the crowded central region of our galaxy.

"Roman will be an incredible discovery machine, pairing a vast view of space with keen vision," said Julie McEnery, the Roman senior project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "Its time-domain surveys will yield a treasure trove of new information about the cosmos."

When Roman launches, expected by May 2027, the mission will scour the center of the Milky Way for microlensing events, which occur when an object such as a star or planet comes into near-perfect alignment with an unrelated background star from our viewpoint. Because anything with mass warps the fabric of space-time, light from the distant star bends around the nearer object as it passes close by. The nearer object therefore acts as a natural magnifying glass, creating a temporary spike in the brightness of the background star's light. That signal lets astronomers know there's an intervening object, even if they can't see it directly.

In current plans, the survey will involve taking an image every 15 minutes around the clock for about two months. Astronomers will repeat the process six times over Roman's five-year primary mission for a combined total of more than a year of observations.

"This will be one of the longest exposures of the sky ever taken," said Scott Gaudi, an astronomy professor at Ohio State University in Columbus, whose research is helping inform Roman's survey strategy. "And it will cover territory that is largely uncharted when it comes to planets."

Astronomers expect the survey to reveal more than a thousand planets orbiting far from their host stars and in systems located farther from Earth than any previous mission has detected. That includes some that could lie within their host star's habitable zone - the range of orbital distances where liquid water can exist on the surface - and worlds that weigh in at as little as a few times the mass of the Moon.

Roman can even detect "rogue" worlds that don't orbit a star at all using microlensing. These cosmic castaways may have formed in isolation or been kicked out of their home planetary systems. Studying them offers clues about how planetary systems form and evolve.

Roman's microlensing observations will also help astronomers explore how common planets are around different types of stars, including binary systems. The mission will estimate how many worlds with two host stars are found in our galaxy by identifying real-life "Tatooine" planets, building on work started by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope and TESS (the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite).

Some of the objects the survey will identify exist in a cosmic gray area. Known as brown dwarfs, they're too massive to be characterized as planets, but not quite massive enough to ignite as stars. Studying them will allow astronomers to explore the boundary between planet and star formation.

Roman is also expected to spot more than a thousand neutron stars and hundreds of stellar-mass black holes. These heavyweights form after a massive star exhausts its fuel and collapses. The black holes are nearly impossible to find when they don't have a visible companion to signal their presence, but Roman will be able to detect them even if unaccompanied because microlensing relies only on an object's gravity. The mission will also find isolated neutron stars - the leftover cores of stars that weren't quite massive enough to become black holes.

Astronomers will use Roman to find thousands of Kuiper belt objects, which are icy bodies scattered mostly beyond Neptune. The telescope will spot some as small as about six miles across (about 1 percent of Pluto's diameter), sometimes by seeing them directly from reflected sunlight and others as they block the light of background stars.

A similar type of shadow play will reveal 100,000 transiting planets between Earth and the center of the galaxy. These worlds cross in front of their host star as they orbit and temporarily dim the light we receive from the star. This method will reveal planets orbiting much closer to their host stars than microlensing reveals, and likely some that lie in the habitable zone.

Scientists will also conduct stellar seismology studies on a million giant stars. This will involve analyzing brightness changes caused by sound waves echoing through a star's gaseous interior to learn about its structure, age, and other properties.

All of these scientific discoveries and more will come from Roman's Galactic Bulge Time-Domain Survey, which will account for less than a fourth of the observing time in Roman's five-year primary mission. Its broad view of space will allow astronomers to conduct many of these studies in ways that have never been possible before, giving us a new view of an ever-changing universe.

Related Links
Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope
Stellar Chemistry, The Universe And All Within It

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

RELATED CONTENT
The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Finding explanation for Milky Way's warp
Boston MA (SPX) Oct 11, 2023
The Milky Way is often depicted as a flat, spinning disk of dust, gas, and stars. But if you could zoom out and take an edge-on photo, it actually has a distinctive warp - as if you tried to twist and bend a vinyl LP. Though scientists have long known through observational data that the Milky Way is warped and its edges are flared like a skirt, no one could explain why. Now, Harvard astronomers at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard and Smithsonian (CfA) have performed the first calculatio ... read more

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
STELLAR CHEMISTRY
SwRI's Dr. Alan Stern conducts space research during suborbital spaceflight aboard Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity

Workshop to highlight NASA's support for mobility, in-space servicing

Apollo astronaut Thomas K. Mattingly dies aged 87

NASA updates Commercial Crew planning manifest

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
SpaceX launches 23 Starlink Internet satellites after aborted mission

Hot summer for Europe's reusable rocket engine

Marking 25 Years since Deep Space 1 kickstarted Ion propulsion

SpinLaunch announces new leadership roles

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Bewitched Battery: Sols 3994-3995

Estimating depositional timing on Mars using cosmogenic radionuclide data

Mars Climate Sounder data reveals new cloud trends, study shows

Scientists discover molten layer covering Martian core

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Chinese astronauts return to Earth after 'successful' mission

New scientific experimental samples from China's space station return to Earth

Shenzhou XVI crew return after 'very cool journey'

Chinese astronauts return to Earth with fruitful experimental results

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
InSPA collaborates with multi-sector partners to fast-track space commercialization

New technologies for the future of European space

Follow NASA's Starling Swarm in Real Time

Fugro SpAARC's operations set to grow with new funding from Western Australian Govt

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
NASA's InSPA Aims to Stimulate Commercial Manufacturing in Low Earth Orbit

MDA acquires SatixFy's Digital Payload Division in $60 Million deal

ESA hones 3D Printed electromagnetic coils for spaceflight

NRL ISS Mission seeks new bioinspired materials

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Scorching, seven-planet system revealed by new Kepler Exoplanet list

Giant planets cast a deadly pall

Jurassic worlds might be easier to spot than modern Earth

ET phone Dublin? Astrophysicists scan the Galaxy for signs of life

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Salts and organics observed on Ganymede's surface by June

New jet stream discovered in Jupiter's upper atmosphere

Uranus aurora discovery offers clues to habitable icy worlds

How NASA is protecting Europa Clipper from space radiation

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


ADVERTISEMENT



The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.