Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope
WFIRST • Missions & Center • In Development
The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope - Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets (WFIRST) is the top-ranked large space mission from the Astro2010 Decadal Survey. On February 18, 2016 NASA announced WFIRST has begun the formulation phase. WFIRST includes science objectives in exoplanet exploration, dark energy research and Galactic and Extragalactic surveys.
The objective of the WFIRST dark energy survey is to determine the nature of dark energy in the Universe by measuring the expansion history and the growth rate of large scale structure (the pattern of galaxies and galaxy clusters). Three different techniques, Supernova, weak gravitational lensing, and baryon acoustic oscillations, will be used to probe the dark energy equation of state and test the validity of General Relativity.
The WFIRST microlensing survey will detect many exoplanets, or planets around other stars, down to masses as small as that of Mars. This will lead to a statistical census of exoplanets with masses greater than a tenth of the Earth's mass at distances at 0.5 AU and beyond. The results from the WFIRST microlensing survey will be a perfect complement to the exoplanet statistics from Kepler, and will provide invaluable information about planet formation, evolution, and prevalence in the galaxy.
Since WFIRST will be conducting large-area infrared imaging and spectroscopic surveys over multiple epochs, the data will be extremely valuable for studies covering a wide range of science topics. A Guest Investigator program will allow scientists to effectively exploit archival WFIRST data acquired through the WFIRST Guest Investigator program.
WFIRST will additionally offer a Guest Observer (GO) program that supports community-based observing. The GO science of WFIRST will have high impact over a broad range of modern astrophysics. It is currently estimated that up to ~25% of the WFIRST mission will be dedicated to GO science.
IPAC, together with STScI, has a role in developing and curating telescope instrument and simulation efforts, as well as engaging the greater scientific community in preparing for the science of WFIRST.