Three scientists from the University of Arizona in Tucson – two from Steward
Observatory and a third from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory – will play
major roles in the development of the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST),
NASA’s successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, and to SIRTF, an infrared
telescope to be launched early next year.

Scheduled for launch in 2010, the new NGST telescope’s primary science
objective will be to look back in time to an extremely important period in
the early history of the universe when the first stars and galaxies began to
form shortly after the big bang.

NASA has selected a team led by Marcia Rieke from the UA Steward Observatory
to provide the near-infrared science camera for the NGST. Rieke will lead a
team that includes industry members from Lockheed-Martin, Palo Alto, Calif.;
EMS Technologies, Ottawa, Canada; and COMDEV, Ltd., Cambridge, Canada. The
near-infrared camera will be the primary NGST instrument to locate and
conduct the initial studies of these first stars and galaxies.

UA astronomer George Rieke, also from Steward Observatory, will lead the
science team for the mid-infrared instrument. This team will work in
collaboration with scientists and engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the European Space Agency. The
mid-infrared instrument will enable NGST to study stars and galaxies forming
inside dense clouds of interstellar dust that may be missed by the
near-infrared camera.

According to George Rieke, “NGST extends our work with NICMOS, for Hubble,
and MIPS, about to be launched on SIRTF, to a level that would have seemed a
fantasy when we joined the university. We are really excited at the
opportunity to help learn how our universe came to be.”

Jonathan Lunine, from the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, is one of
several scientists NASA has selected to serve on the NGST science working
group. This group will provide scientific guidance during the development of
the telescope.

“This provides UA astronomers the opportunity really to determine the
science that will be done into the future,” Lunine said. His proposal
involves characterizing planets around other stars in terms of their
potential to harbor life.

The NGST is the follow-up telescope to Hubble, scheduled for retirement in
2010. At approximately 6 meters (20 feet) in diameter, NGST’s primary mirror
will be more than two-and-a-half times as large as the Hubble mirror.

In addition to a large light-gathering mirror, NGST will operate at near-and
mid-infrared wavelengths to better detect extremely distant objects, for
which the cosmological redshift has moved the visible light into the
infrared. NGST will study objects that formed when the universe was between
one million and a few billion years old. It will be capable of seeing
objects 400 times fainter than those currently studied with large
ground-based telescopes or the current generation of space-based infrared

The NGST telescope, estimated to cost $1 billion by a 2001 National Academy
of Science report, will be built by an industry team that NASA will select
later this summer.