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STScI Newsletter
2024 / Volume 41 / Issue 01

About this Article

Andreea Petric (apetric[at]stsci.edu), Rachael Beaton (rbeaton[at]stsci.edu), Gisella de Rosa (gderosa[at]stsci.edu), Samantha Hoffmann (slhoffmann[at]stsci.edu), and Max Mutchler (mutchler[at]stsci.edu) - 2024 Jan 26

The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, planned to launch in late 2026, will provide a simultaneous field that will be 200 times larger than that of HST+WFC3/IR, with sensitivity and resolution similar to that of HST, and incredible survey speed. Roman will perform near-infrared imaging and spectroscopic surveys approximately 1,000 times faster than the most extensive surveys on HST. It will yield contiguously surveyed areas rivaling ground-based surveys and producing broad impacts across astrophysics. Roman's survey capabilities will be highly synergistic with JWST's groundbreaking sensitivity, extended wavelength coverage, and broad range of observing modes. Roman and JWST will complement not only Hubble but also Rubin, Euclid, and other ground-based and space-based facilities over the next two decades. 

Observations from JWST's first year resulted in transformative scientific results on a wide range of relevant topics for Roman and synergistic with Roman's survey capabilities. The conference, held at the Roman Science Operation Center (SOC) at STScI in June 2023, focused on how emerging results from JWST are reshaping the astronomical landscape and how this impacts the planning for both Roman's community-defined Core Community Surveys and General Astrophysics Surveys. In concordance with the broad range of astrophysics addressed by both missions, we received contributions on all scientific topics connected to this theme, from solar system objects and exoplanets to nearby galaxies to the search for the first stars and galaxies and everything in between. The word cloud below is representative of the talk abstracts we received. 

Online proceedings from the conference content have been compiled on Zenodo including both the slides from the presentations and the transcripts from presentation captioning. In addition to the online proceedings, high-resolution video recordings of individual sessions can be accessed on Panopto; the Live Streams are archived on YouTube. 

The word cloud shows categories in shades of purple, blue and orange. The largest words are: Roman, JWST, galaxies, and surveys.
Figure 1. Word cloud constructed from the abstracts for the oral presentations given at the Roman 2023 conference. The breadth of science impacted by Roman and JWST capabilities is emphasized in the diversity of scientific words. 

Science Highlights 

STScI director Nancy Levenson's introductory remarks conveyed STScI's strong commitment to Roman and general excitement to collaborate with our institutional partners to support the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope mission of excellent science by and for all. Roman Senior Project Scientist Julie McEnery gave a set of updates (begins at 9:00) on the Roman mission, from hardware deliveries and upcoming integration and testing to the strategies planned by the project to ensure that the paths for community engagement are broad and clear. STScI's Roman Mission Office Project Scientist Karoline Gilbert detailed how to get involved in the Community Definition of Roman's Core Community Surveys (see 49:07).

Session 2 on Surveys of the Very Nearby Universe included tantalizing presentations about how Roman and JWST will find and characterize small bodies in the Solar system and exoplanets in planetary systems within a few kiloparsecs of the Sun. 

Surveys within the Milky Way and Nearby Galaxies, presented in Session 3, described exciting prospects of using Roman to reveal the large-scale kinematic structure of the Galactic Center, perform near-field cosmology, find and study brown and red dwarfs with NIR imaging, and study the origin of very metal-rich stars near the Sun.

Session 4 pushed us to the edge of the observable Universe with Galaxy Surveys at High Redshift, where we learned about using Roman to find Dark Star candidates, the first quasars and galaxies in the reionization era, and synergies with JWST and Rubin.  

Surveying Nearby Galaxies with Roman, discussed in Session 5, will permit unique studies of stellar populations and surface brightness fluctuations to better calibrate distance indicators, reveal the merger histories of nearby galaxies, and search for AGN in green peas in the local Universe. Synergies with JWST, HST, Euclid, and ground-based massively multiplexed spectroscopic facilities were emphasized by several presenters.  

Roman will also be a fantastic transient factory, as detailed by presentations in Session 6 on Roman Surveys of the Flickering Universe. This session also included analysis methods to enhance our ability to learn from the surveys, like graph neural networks and point spread function characterizations.  

Roman's wide field slitless spectroscopic potential to teach us about Galaxies before and around Cosmic Noon was emphasized in Session 7, with talks describing ongoing efforts to produce high-fidelity grism simulations for Roman. Combined Roman images and spectra will give us new insights into luminous infrared galaxies and obscured AGN at the cosmic noon. 

Session 8 delved into the Cosmology and Large Scale Surveys, teaching us how to use JWST and ground surveys to prepare for the transformative Core Community Surveys with Roman, including searches for population III protostars, ionized bubbles tracing the epoch of reionization, and studying the cosmic dawn through detection of Lyman alpha emission. 

The conference also included two sessions where groups of attendees brainstormed answers to questions about Roman's programmatic and scientific future. These discussions included enhancing community engagement in the Core Community Surveys, promoting collaboration and communication among scientific groups, addressing data management challenges, and considering the benefits of an accessible science platform. Furthermore, participants explored strategies for maximizing the long-term value of Roman data for astrophysical surveys, highlighted exciting prospects in the study of exoplanets and nearby galaxies, and emphasized the telescope's potential for unraveling the mysteries of galaxy formation. 

A chart showing the launch date with opportunities for the community, defining, engaging with partners,  NASA ROSES, WFI Collaborations, General investigator. The speaker is shown in the upper left corner.
Figure 2. Screen capture from the conference livestream of Roman Mission Office Project Scientist, Dr. Karoline Gilbert, describing the ways that the community can engage with the Roman mission.

Special Events 

Juneteenth: Linda Harris, the Director of Programs and Events at the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center, was joined by David B. Cole, a composer, musician, and instructor at the Duke Ellington School of Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. to educate the audience on Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad through traditional songs. 

Public Lecture: Joan Gordon, Ph.D., discussed "The Personal Side of Dr. Nancy Grace Roman." She provided insights into the remarkable life of the Roman mission's namesake, NASA's first Chief of Astronomy known as "The Mother of Hubble." Dr. Rachael Beaton followed and connected Nancy's vision with the Roman Space Telescope mission and its groundbreaking future science. 

Science Writers Workshop: This workshop for science journalists provided an overview of the range of survey science enabled by the Roman Space Telescope. A panel of prominent astronomers spoke on the synergies between the Roman Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope, science from our solar system to the edge of the observable Universe, and time-domain astronomy. 

Astronomy on Tap: The conference organizers coordinated with Baltimore Astronomy on Tap to host a special Roman-centric event for the Baltimore community at Guilford Hall Brewery. Dr. Andreea Petric, Dr. L Y Aaron Yung, and Dr. John Wu shared the impact of Roman on their science fields. 

Summary 

The 2023 Roman Conference marked a return for the conference series from fully online gatherings into a hybrid format. The palpable enthusiasm and excitement within the community reflect a collective eagerness to actively participate in shaping the Roman mission. Looking ahead to July 2024, the Roman Science Support Center is set to host the next event, titled "How Roman Observations Will Confront Theory." We look forward to a vibrant exchange of ideas, collaborative discussions, and shared commitment to advancing the Roman mission. 

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