Trump’s budget would kill NASA’s WFIRST telescope. Astronomers say that would be a mistake

Trump’s budget would kill NASA’s WFIRST telescope. Astronomers say that would be a mistake

A NASA space telescope that would probe distant planets and explore some of the biggest mysteries of the cosmos is on the chopping block in President Trump’s 2019 budget proposal released Monday.

The request would zero out funding for NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or WFIRST, a repurposed spy satellite donated by the Department of Defense. The move sent shock waves through the scientific community.

“It would be extraordinarily disappointing to see it canceled when a lot of work has gone into it already,” Bruce Macintosh, a Stanford University astrophysicist with the mission, said in an interview.

With a planned launch in the mid-2020s, WFIRST would survey distant galaxies looking for the effects of dark matter, that mysterious stuff that can’t be seen or touched but outnumbers normal matter by roughly 5 to 1. The telescope would study Type Ia supernovas to track dark energy, that strange repulsive force that is causing the universe to expand faster and faster. The observatory could even use its instruments to explore the planets around other stars.

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