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Roman’s field of view is far larger than Webb’s and Hubble’s

Our Roman team helped the mission meet major milestones, designed a robust cloud-based science platform, and continued to engage the astronomical community.

About This Article

NASA's Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which is currently planned to launch in late 2026, is projected to gather more than 20 petabytes of data within the first five years of operations. Let's pause to put that into perspective: It's roughly equivalent to taking one high-resolution digital photo every second of every day for 80 years. This massive amount of data will lead to an equally amazing amount of research, but there is a wrinkle. The Roman Space Telescope's data must be publicly accessible immediately, but its large data sets can't easily be downloaded onto individual computers.

In 2021, STScI's Roman team put this problem front and center, and has laid out how researchers will be able to seamlessly access and analyze the mission's data. Researchers will have complete access to Roman's data in the cloud, along with high-level science data products and tools to analyze the data. Astronomers will also be able to apply additional computing resources to conduct exploratory work of Roman's big data sets and use a powerful, stable science software environment to conduct their research. 

As with other missions, anyone who refines or processes Roman's data can easily contribute their products to our archive and can share online software created to analyze the data, accelerating every researcher's ability to analyze the data and build on previous discoveries.

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Roman will be able to photograph, in a single near-infrared exposure, an area of the sky that is 200 times larger than that of the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 infrared camera (or 100 times that of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys), with the same crisp sharpness. A Roman Ultra Deep Field (a very long exposure) could see millions of very old galaxies. Read more about Roman’s capabilities.
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Our staff and partners are also considering how Roman and the Vera C. Rubin Observatory will complement one another. Roman will survey the sky from space and Rubin from the ground in Chile. Each will take wide and deep images, Roman in near-infrared light and Rubin in visible light. Combined, their images will provide expansive views of the universe. Bold ideas for future collaborations are being explored.

Hitting More Mission Milestones

In July, the mission’s ground system passed the critical design review. The approval means the plan for science operations hosted by the institute provides all the necessary capabilities—a major achievement. And in September, both the mission and the spacecraft itself passed their critical design review, allowing Roman to transition to the development and implementation phase. These accomplishments were made possible in part by STScI, which will host Roman’s Science Operations Center, in collaboration with the other mission partners: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which manages the project, co-builds the Wide Field Instrument, and provides the Mission Operations Center; the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is building the telescope's coronographic instrument; and IPAC at Caltech, which will house the Science Support Center; and industrial, international, and academic partners.

Engaging the Astronomical Community

This year marked a new chapter in the plans for Roman's core community surveys. Since a significant fraction of the telescope's observing time in its first five years will be dedicated to three core surveys, a decision was made to have these surveys defined by the broader astronomical community through an open, community-oriented process.

With the plans for data management well underway, key mission milestones met, and a new plan to define its core survey observations, the future is bright for Roman.

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While wide-field imaging will be important for galaxy studies, just as important are Roman's spectroscopic capabilities. A spectrograph takes light from an object and spreads it into a rainbow of colors known as a spectrum. From this range of colors, astronomers can glean many details otherwise unavailable, like an object's distance or composition. Roman has the ability to sample every object within the field of view. When combined with its imaging these data will enable astronomers to learn more about the universe. Learn how Roman will provide a new understanding of galaxy evolution.