AFTA Gets Nod from on High

By Neil Gehrels

We have excellent news this month for AFTA. The 2013 final report has been submitted and NASA has approved continued work to move the mission forward. Here are the details.

The AFTA Science Definition Team (SDT) and Project team for WFIRST finished the final report on the 2013 study on March 24 and submitted it to NASA. A copy of the report can be found at There is also a shorter "primer" with information for astronomers at

On May 30, the NASA Astrophysics Director presented the AFTA mission to the NASA Administrator and senior staff. The presentation was well received and approval was given to continue study of using the 2.4-meter telescope.

Confused about the acronyms? AFTA stands for Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets and is the name being used for the version of WFIRST with the 2.4-meter telescope.

The SDT and Project performed an intensive study with four meetings and weekly telecons over six months. It was found that the capabilities of the mission with the 2.4-meter telescope are greatly expanded compared to the previous WFIRST configurations. The sky surveys can be done faster and deeper. The microlensing and supernova monitoring will have less source confusion and systematics control. The larger telescope also enables an onboard optional coronagraph for direct imaging of exoplanets.