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NASA Names Space Telescope for Nancy Grace Roman ’46, H’76

Artist rendering of space telescope in orbit with purple background

The newly christened Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will investigate the mysterious dark energy speeding up the expansion of the universe (Artist rendering courtesy of NASA).  

The New York Times: NASA Names Dark Energy Telescope for Nancy Grace Roman

In late May, NASA announced that one of its most ambitious upcoming space telescopes would be named for Nancy Grace Roman ’46, H’76, who pioneered the role of women in the space agency.

Dr. Roman joined the agency in 1959 when NASA was only six months old, and rose to be its first chief astronomer. She is credited, among other things, with championing and spearheading the development of the Hubble Space Telescope. Around the agency and in astronomical circles she is known as “the mother of Hubble.” She died in 2018.

The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, as it is now named, is being designed to investigate the mysterious dark energy speeding up the expansion of the universe and to scan space for exoplanets belonging to distant stars. The project to build the telescope has survived several attempts by the Trump administration to kill it, and is now slated to be launched later this decade.

Until now it has been known by the decidedly uncatchy name of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or Wfirst. The acronym had a double meaning: “W” is the name for a crucial parameter that measures the virulence of dark energy, thus giving a clue to the fate of the universe.

“It is because of Nancy Grace Roman’s leadership and vision that NASA became a pioneer in astrophysics and launched Hubble, the world’s most powerful and productive space telescope,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said in a statement issued by the space agency.

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