NASA names future WFIRST space telescope after Nancy Grace Roman, the ‘Mother of Hubble’

Alan Boyle

The telescope formerly known as WFIRST has a new name that honors Nancy Grace Roman, who served as NASA’s first chief astronomer and came to be known as the “Mother of Hubble.”

  • NASA’s Roman Space Telescope is due for launch in the mid-2020s as a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and the soon-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope. Its former name was an acronym for Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, reflecting its anticipated capability to provide Hubble-quality imagery over a field of view that’s 100 times larger than Hubble’s.
  • Roman joined NASA in 1959, six months after the space agency was created, and paved the way for Hubble and other space telescopes. She passed away in 2018 at the age of 93. In a news release, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine noted Roman’s role in getting Hubble off the ground and said “I can think of no better name for WFIRST.”
  • The Roman Space Telescope is expected to shed light on mysteries ranging from the nature of dark matter and dark energy to the characteristics of alien planets. University of Washington astronomers are in charge of one of the telescope’s planned science projects, currently known as the WFIRST Infrared Nearby Galaxies Survey, or WINGS. Let’s hope an updated acronym will have the same ring.

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