About the Mission
The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) was the top large space priority in the report of the Astro2010 Decadal Survey "New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics." NASA will implement the WFIRST program on a 2.4-meter AFTA (Astrophysics-Focused Telescope Assets) telescope, donated to NASA by another agency.
The design reference mission in the final report of the WFIRST-AFTA Science Definition Team describes an ambitious science program. This includes a multi-pronged approach to measuring dark energy, the discovery and census of planets down to sub-Earth masses via their microlensing signatures, and the imaging and spectroscopy of planets via coronagraphy. Moreover, the WFIRST instruments will enable many exciting studies in general astrophysics, through the combination of Guest Observer programs and Guest Investigator studies of archival WFIRST data, including the wide-area and time-resolved WFIRST surveys.
Synergy with HST, JWST, and Observatories in the 2020s
WFIRST will produce large-scale maps of the night sky at the resolution and sensitivity of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), but with a field of view 100 times larger. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will have higher resolution, and sensitivity 100 times as powerful as Hubble, but will have about the same sized field of view as Hubble. With its large field of view and high resolution, WFIRST surveys will discover rare astronomical objects that can be followed up by JWST and other powerful telescopes being built in the 2020s. WFIRST’s Hubble-like resolution and sensitivity will allow astronomers to test and calibrate the photometric precision, astrometry, classification systems, and the effect of source blending for large ground-based surveys performed in the 2020s, such as with the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). WFIRST will add valuable near-infrared colors to LSST’s visible imaging catalogs, improving measurements of the photometric redshift of galaxies and the properties of their stellar populations.
The WFIRST mission is currently in the NASA formulation phase and involves work by various institutions. The WFIRST Project Office is at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), which also oversees the work on the Wide Field Instrument (WFI), the Spacecraft Bus, and System Integration. The NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) oversees the work on the coronagraphic instrument. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is the Science Operations Center for WFIRST, and shares science support responsibilities with IPAC, foreign partners, and GSFC. STScI leads the work on the mission's observation scheduling system, wide field instrument data processing system for the direct-imaging mode, and the mission's entire data archive. A Formulation Science Working Group (FSWG), as well as current and previous science teams, help prepare the mission science.