The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is an infrared observatory in development by NASA. The primary objective of the observatory is exoplanet detection and dark energy research to help uncover the mysteries of the universe.
The universe ‘banged’ into existence almost 13 billion years ago and since then has been constantly expanding. The Big Bang Theory explains the formation of the universe and its evolution to date.
The end of the universe has been theorized by scientists based on the known knowledge about the universe. It is a theory that explains that the expanding universe will eventually slow down its expansion.
The universe would collapse itself as all matter coming together would overcome expansion through gravity in a ‘Big Crunch’. Alternatively, if such an event does not occur, the universe would keep expanding as galaxies move further away from the limit observable universe.
But recently, it was observed, that the universe is not slowing down at all and is, in fact, accelerating. Although there is no concrete evidence of the reason behind this unusual behavior, it is thought that Dark Energy might be responsible. This elusive cosmic pressure that occupies 68% of the observable universe was unknown until recently because of its faint gravity.
Dark energy surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the galaxy together as it offers a weak opposition to gravity. But eventually, if ‘Big Crunch’ does not happen, a ‘Big Rip’ will occur as dark energy becomes stronger than gravity causing everything bound together to break away.
According to NASA, the WFIRST will make use of three survey methods – High Latitude Spectroscopic Survey to measure positions of galaxies and celestial bodies accurately, High Latitude Imaging Survey to capture shapes and distances of galaxies and a survey of the type of exploding star that was first observed to conclude that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. Knowing more about dark energy’s influence on the expansion will help us understand more about expansion.