Skip to content

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)

A device known as a starshade will allow space telescopes to image planets around distant stars.

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.

The starshade would block the light of distant stars for sensitive space telescopes.

Highlights

By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/26/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: starshade, stars, planets, telescope, science, life, questions, sunflower


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.

St. Dominic, patron saint of astronomers.

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.

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.

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.

---


'Help give every student and teacher Free resources for a world-class moral Catholic education'


Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for SEPTEMBER 2017
Parishes.
That our parishes, animated by a missionary spirit, may be places where faith is communicated and charity is seen.


Comments


More Technology

Planet Niburu: What's going to happen on September 23? Watch

Image of Is planet Niburu real? And does it pose a threat to Earth?

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 phone E.T. at home, but it could be a bad idea. Here's why Watch

Image of Scientists plan to starts calling nearby planets at the end of 2018.

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


Cassini's reward for 13 years of service is a fiery death. Here's why Watch

Image of A NASA rendition of Cassini's final dive in Saturn.

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


Is the end of Google near? Internet giant may soon become target of anti-trust laws around the world Watch

Image of Has Google become a monopoly?

Google is getting too big for its own good, or so some experts are warning. Talk of anti-trust measures against the internet giant is ... continue reading


UFO Seekers use a telescope to capture images of the secret Area 51 base where people can be SHOT on sight Watch

Image of Area 51 is off limits to the public and is heavily patrolled. Sensors also detect anyone approaching the perimeter.

Hikers and UFO enthusiasts have captured clear, new images of the secretive Area 51 base in Nevada using a telescope and camera. The photos ... continue reading


Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.