Overview: The Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is a NASA observatory designed to explore the Universe in search of answers to fundamental questions about dark energy, exoplanets, and infrared astrophysics. The telescope has a 2.4 m primary mirror (the same size as the Hubble Space Telescope) but will have a field of view that is more than 200 times greater than the Hubble Space Telescope’s WFC3 IR Channel, capturing more of the sky at once. The primary instrument, the Wide Field Instrument, will measure light from a billion galaxies over the course of the mission lifetime and will perform a microlensing survey of the inner Milky Way to find exoplanets down to a tenth of the Earth’s mass. The Coronagraph Instrument will directly image ice and gas giant exoplanets around nearby stars. WFIRST is designed for a 5 year mission and is expected to launch in the mid 2020s.

IPAC will partner with Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute to provide the Science Center functions for WFIRST.  In particular, IPAC is responsible for operations for the Coronagraph Instrument (CGI), including commanding and performance monitoring, high-level data processing of the grism and prism data from the Wide Field Instrument (WFI), high-level data processing of the microlensing survey data from WFI, and community engagement for WFIRST exoplanet science. Along with dedicated dark energy and exoplanet surveys, WFIRST will have significant General Observer (GO), Guest Investigator (GI), and Theory programs, and IPAC will implement the proposal solicitation and grant management for these three programs. The GO program is expected to account for up to 25% of the mission. IPAC also curates telescope instrument and simulation efforts, and engages the greater scientific community in preparing for science with WFIRST.

A number of IPAC scientists are also members of the WFIRST Formulation Science Working Group (FSWG), WFIRST Prepatory Science (WPS) teams, and WFIRST Science Investigation Teams (SITs):

  • Lee Armus and Rachel Akeson are FSWG members.
  • Chas Beichman, Peter Capak, Sean Carey, David Ciardi, James Colbert, George Helou, Davy Kirkpatrick, Harry Teplitz, Schuyler van DykYun WangSebastiano Calchi Novati and Calen Henderson are members of four of the twelve WFIRST Science Investigation Teams (SITs), focusing on the discovery and characterization of exoplanets with microlensing and direct detection techniques, understanding dark energy with Type-Ia supernovae, and Cosmology with the WFIRST High Latitude Survey (HLS).
  • Peter Capak is the PI of one of the WFIRST Preparatory Science (WPS) teams studying the calibration of photometric redshifts for WFIRST.
  • Yun Wang was also a member of the WFIRST Science Definition Team (SDT), which submitted their final report in 2015.

Mission News