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Session 54 - Next Generation Space Telescope.
Oral session, Thursday, January 08
International Ballroom Center,
As envisioned by the HST amp; Beyond Committee, the focus of the NGST scientific goals is the study of the early universe, the origins of galaxies such as our Milky Way. By utilizing NGST's unprecedented sensitivity in the near-IR, astronomers will be able to probe the structures of galaxies at redshifts corresponding to the first billion years after the Big Bang and study the formation epoch of the first stars and stellar systems. Zodiacal-light limited sensitivity in NIR imaging and 2-D spectroscopy is the core technical driver of NGST. However, the astronomical potential of cooled, large, diffraction-limited optics in a low background environment is too great to restrict its use to only these cosmological goals.The astronomy community must help find an appropriate balance between all desired capabilities and financial and technical feasibility. To this end, NASA and the STScI hosted a scientific meeting in April 1997 dedicated to the scientific impact of NGST. NASA HQ has charted an Ad Hoc Science Working Group to develop the NGST science program, the Design Reference Mission, in greater detail and breadth. Already, we have gained a better understanding of NGST's potential to contribute to the long range goals of OSS with higher NIR spectroscopic resolution and with extended capabilities in the visible and mid-IR (beyond 5 microns). To pursue the instrumental and observatory implications, NASA has selected a handful of studies for the Integrated Science Instrument Module.
Similar European and Canadian efforts are going on in parallel. We anticipate that the results of this work will inform the detailed design phase of NGST and lead to the ultimate selection of the NGST architecture, the development of the ISIM, and the solicitation and selection of the flight Science Working Group. We conclude with a panel of astronomers briefly describing key goals in the OSS strategic plan and how they may be achieved with NGST. Audience participation is encouraged.
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