WFIRST-2.4: What Every Astronomer Should Know

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The Astro2010 Decadal Survey recommended a Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) as its top priority for a new large space mission. The report of the WFIRST-AFTA Science Definition Team (SDT) presents a Design Reference Mission for WFIRST that employs one of the 2.4-m, Hubble-quality mirror assemblies recently made available to NASA. The 2.4-m primary mirror enables a mission with greater sensitivity and higher angular resolution than the smaller aperture designs previously considered for WFIRST, increasing both the science return of the primary surveys and the capabilities of WFIRST as a Guest Observer facility. The option of adding an on-axis, coronagraphic instrument would enable imaging and spectroscopic studies of planets around nearby stars. This short article, produced as a companion to the SDT report, summarizes the key points of the WFIRST-2.4 DRM. It highlights the remarkable opportunity that the 2.4-m telescope affords for advances in many fields of astrophysics and cosmology, including dark energy, the demographics and characterization of exoplanets, the evolution of galaxies and quasars, and the stellar populations of the Milky Way and its neighbors.

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