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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Spy Telescopes Could Advance U.S. Dark Energy Mission
4 June 2012 4:56 pm
The two telescopes were designed to gaze down upon Earth from space to collect intelligence. Now, NASA hopes to repurpose the instruments to study dark energy, extrasolar planets, and a host of other questions in astronomy.
The telescopes were originally supposed to be deployed by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which manages the nation's spy satellites, but were not needed. Last year, NRO offered the surplus instruments—each as big as the Hubble Space Telescope—as a gift to NASA. Over the past several months, NASA officials and a small group of astronomers have been developing a preliminary plan to use the telescopes as a component in the proposed Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) mission.
WFIRST was aimed at studying dark energy and exoplanets, but its estimated price tag of $1.5 billion and NASA's budget constraints had all but eliminated the possibility that NASA could pursue it before the mid-2020s. NRO's gift has revived hope that WFIRST could become viable sooner. The two instruments are currently sitting in a clean room in Rochester, New York, and are costing NASA about $100,000 a year to store.
"Most of my colleagues think it is an exciting prospect," says Paul Hertz, director of NASA's astrophysics division. However, officials caution that it will take some time to evaluate exactly how the telescopes would need to be repurposed and how much money NASA would save by incorporating them into the WFIRST mission.
David N. Spergel, an astronomer at Princeton University, is an unabashed booster of the idea. "This is a total game changer," Spergel told The New York Times.