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An influential group of scientists has unveiled a bold proposal for a giant new space-based telescope that would be far more powerful than today’s observatories. Called the High Definition Space Telescope (HDST), the instrument is essentially a supersized Hubble Space Telescope, with 100 times its ability to detect faint starlight.

The multibillion dollar HDST, which is now in the concept phase and would launch in the 2030s, would be a game changer. With a mirror 25 times the size of Hubble’s, HDST could delve deep into the universe’s past to trace how gases enriched with the elemental ingredients of life moved in and out of galaxies. Closer to home, HDST could examine dozens of Earth-like exoplanets that are too tiny for Hubble and its immediate successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, to see. HDST would scour their atmospheres for signs of alien life, perhaps finally answering whether or not we are alone in the cosmos.

The vision for the HDST was described in a July report spearheaded by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), a consortium of global institutions that operate astronomical observatories.

On Tuesday, October 6 at 11:00-11:30 am PDT (2:00-2:30 pm EDT; 18:00-18:30 UTC), join a live Kavli Foundation Google+ Hangout to learn more about HDST’s promise from the two co-chairs of the AURA committee — Sara Seager of the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research at MIT and Julianne Dalcanton of the University of Washington — and committee member Marc Postman of the Space Telescope Science Institute. These scientists will answer questions about how HDST will trace cosmic evolution, from the primeval rise of chemical elements necessary for life to possible alien life right in our cosmic backyard, plus how to build such a powerful instrument.

About the Participants

SARA SEAGER is the Class of 1941 Professor of Physics and Planetary Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), affiliated faculty at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, and co-chair of the HDST study. Her research specialty is exoplanet atmospheres and interiors.

JULIANNE DALCANTON is a professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Washington and the other co-chair of the HDST study. Her research focuses on the origin and evolution of galaxies.
MARC POSTMAN is an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and served on the committee for the HDST report. His research interests include galaxy cluster and large-scale cosmic structure evolution and formation, along with large space telescope design and implementation.

Questions can be submitted ahead of and during this webcast by email to info@kavlifoundation.org or send a message on Twitter with the hashtag #KavliLive.

Adam Hadhazy
Astrophysics Writer/Editor, The Kavli Foundation
+1 443-994-0506