Scientists planning to use a 'giant sunflower' to see 'other earths' around distant stars
By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)
3/26/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Scientists from NASA are working on a clever device that will allow them to take direct pictures of planets around distant stars. Known as a "starshade" the device, which is akin to a giant sunflower in design, will block the light from stars and allow space telescopes to see the planets around them.
The starshade would block the light of distant stars for sensitive space telescopes.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Stars are bright objects and many of them are even brighter than our own sun, which is itself a star. Planets however, produce no light of their own, they simply reflect the light of their parent star. Because of this, planets are always outshone by their stars.
We have directly imaged planets around other stars before, but the occasions are rare and the planets are both massive and distant from their parent.
In order to directly image smaller planets orbiting in the potential "habitable zone" around stars, we need to find a way to block all of the starlight from the star, while being able to see the planets in orbit around it. The idea is similar to the way we might cover the sun with our hand to better see a distant object on a sunny day.
Enter the starshade. Shaped like a sunflower, the shade would ride to space with a telescope. It would deploy automatically and move with the telescope, allowing its use for an extended period of time. During its operation, it will be moved by thrusters to precisely block the light of the star, but not the space around it. That would allow planets to be directly imaged by the telescope.
A prototype of the starshade is already under development.
The planets still would not show much detail, since they would be extremely distant, but scientists would get a good measurement of their light. That light is important because it can be studied to detect biomarker chemicals in the atmosphere. Those are chemical compounds in the atmosphere that are signs of life on an alien planet.
Simply discovering these biomarkers will give scientists a very good idea of whether or not life exists on other planets. It might not resolve the question entirely, if there is any chance the chemicals could exist naturally, however it would give scientists a short list of candidate worlds for future study.
NASA will launch the starshade on a future mission if testing goes well.
The starshade is currently in prototype development and the full-scale starshade will have to be launched on a future, as yet, undetermined mission, assuming engineers can successfully work out the technical details.
Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for OCTOBER 2017
Workers and the Unemployed. That all workers may receive respect and protection of their rights, and that the unemployed may receive the opportunity to contribute to the common good.
A young Russian man is sticking to his story that he first told as a child. Boriska Kipriyanovich, 20, claims he once lived on Mars and ... continue reading
Pope Francis' call to the International Space Station shows there is no conflict between the faith and science (Full Transcript) Watch
Pope Francis spoke with the crew of the International Space Station on Thursday. The Holy Father asked each of the crew how the experience ... continue reading
September 23 is a worrisome date for millions of people who believe that a massive planet will affect the Earth as it passes by in space. ... continue reading
Scientists plan to send a signal into deep space to see if aliens are out there. However, experts warn we could endanger humanity by doing ... continue reading
Goodbye to Cassini, the space probe that was launched in 1997 and spent six years travelling, and over thirteen years exploring Saturn and ... continue reading
by Catholic Online
- Daily Reading for Tuesday, November 21st, 2017 HD Video
- St. Rose Philippine Duchesne: Saint of the Day for Saturday, November ...
- Pope Francis calls for end of life care to acknowledge mortality
- Has Pope Francis violated the 8th Commandment, speaking out against ...
- The FBI may investigate Planned Parenthood
- Daily Readings for Saturday, November 18, 2017
- Daily Reading for Monday, November 20th, 2017 HD Video
- The Catholic Miracle. Become part of our incredible mission HD
- Daily Reading for Sunday, November 19th, 2017 HD
- Did Pope Francis blast 'perverse attitude' of climate change deniers? HD
- Scientists warn: The end of life as we know it is near HD
Learn about Catholic world
Inform - Inspire - Ignite
Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained
Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need
Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online
Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye
Today's bible reading
Products and services we offer
Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books
The California Network
Inspiring streaming service
Learn the Catholic way