The National Reconnaissance Office gifted NASA with two telescopes in June. Both have 2.4-meter mirrors, like the Hubble Space Telescope (pictured here), but have fields of view some 100 times larger than Hubble. // photo illustration by NASA
In June of this year, news broke that NASA had received two space telescopes from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Both instruments hold mirrors 2.4 meters across, the same size as the Hubble Space Telescope. However, both have shorter focal lengths than Hubble, which means they can observe a much wider field of view. In fact, these scopes could observe a field about 1.8° wide (some 100 times larger than what Hubble sees). Neither of the NRO-donated scopes has additional instruments (such as cameras) yet, so both are essentially “shells.”
Now, NASA is requesting ideas for how to use these two telescopes, and they want to hear from you! The agency specifies that the concept should investigate at least one of five main science goals: space technology, human exploration and operations, heliophysics, planetary science, or astrophysics. NASA, however, is not interested in a possible infrared wide-field survey, as astronomers have already specified that one of these telescopes might be put to good use with the proposed WFIRST project (the Wide-Field InfraRed Survey Telescope).
If you have an awesome research topic that one of these 2.4-meter scopes could investigate, NASA asks that you submit it by January 7, 2013. The summary must be written in English, be no more than four pages, and use at least 12-point type. The agency also states that this summary must incorporate a “four-quadrant summary chart” and a concept description including all text, tables, and illustrations. You don’t need to worry, though, about determining a budget or a schedule — NASA just wants some good ideas.
The agency will then pick the most promising concepts (top priority goes to those that have the highest value to science, human spaceflight, and space technology, in addition to being innovative) and invite their authors to make formal presentations at a workshop February 5 and 6 to further discuss these ideas.
So, if you have a proposal for what type of research NASA should do with these 2.4-meter wide-field space telescopes, consider submitting it. For more information, visit the agency’s Applications of Large Space Optics Web page. (Oh, and if you also are curious what a “four-quadrant summary chart” is, NASA has a description on its “Submit an Abstract” page). Good luck, and let us know your ideas!