NASA’s NuSTAR (launch date: 2012) will rely on high-energy X-rays to study the cosmos. Among its missions will be gazing at supernovas, or exploded stars, for clues explaining how and why they self-destruct.
Designed to penetrate dust clouds, NASA’s CALISTO orbiting observatory (launch: 2015) will search interstellar space for traces of organic molecules, the building blocks of life.
The James Webb Space Telescope (launch: 2014) will collect infrared radiation with a mirror 21 feet in diameter. The goal is to study signals generated when stars and galaxies formed in the aftermath of the Big Bang 12 billion to 14 billion years ago. NASA’s Weiler says the telescope “will have the ability to look back at the birth of matter itself.”
Mark Strauss is a senior editor.