Artist’s concept of an exoplanet transiting in front of its star. The upcoming Roman space telescope mission is expected to find at least 100,000 new such transiting worlds. Image via ESA.
Since the 1990s, astronomers have discovered more than 4,000 exoplanets – planets outside our solar system, orbiting other stars. NASA’s upcoming Roman Space Telescope – named for American astronomer Nancy Grace Roman – is one of the next generation of space telescopes that will play a big part in discovering more new worlds. In fact, NASA is expecting Roman, which is scheduled to launch in the mid-2020s, to discover upwards of 100,000 exoplanets, the space agency announced on March 31, 2021.
How will Roman do this? The telescope will use two different methods for detecting exoplanets, the transit method and microlensing. Most telescopes use primarily just one method, but by utilizing two different ones, Roman – previously known as the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) – will be one of the most prolific planet hunters ever launched.
Microlensing uses the gravitational light-bending effects of massive objects to detect planets orbiting a star. It does this by monitoring the tiny changes in light produced by the star. This happens ...