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NASA's Starshade - Amazing!

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posted on Apr, 1 2014 @ 11:13 AM
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The flower you see in this animation isn’t NASA’s attempt to celebrate the coming of spring. It’s actually the latest design in a cutting-edge effort to take pictures of planets orbiting stars far from the sun.




Astronomers have been indirectly detecting exoplanets for more than 15 years, but actually taking a picture of one has proven an immensely difficult task. Picking out the dim light of a planet from a star billions of times brighter is akin to finding a needle in a cosmic haystack, especially when the planet in question is a small, rocky world similar to Earth. In order to achieve this feat, researchers are developing techniques to block out the starlight while preserving the light emitted by the planet. This is called starlight suppression.

It’s a task that NASA’s flower-shaped starshade is designed to make easier. Working in conjunction with a space-based telescope, the starshade is able to position itself precisely between the telescope and the star that’s being observed, and can block the starlight before it even reaches the telescope’s mirrors.

With the starlight suppressed, light coming from exoplanets orbiting the star would be visible. Using this technology, astronomers would be able to take actual pictures of exoplanets – images that could provide clues as to whether such worlds could support life as we know it.


Despite these challenges, the starshade approach could offer planet-hunters many advantages. “One of the starshade’s strengths is simplicity,” said Kasdin. “Light from the star never reaches the telescope because it’s blocked by the starshade, which allows the telescope system to be simpler.” Another advantage of the starshade approach is that it can be used with a multi-purpose space telescope designed to make observations that could be useful to astronomers working in fields other than exoplanets.

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edit on 4/1/2014 by freakjive because: (no reason given)




posted on Apr, 1 2014 @ 12:19 PM
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reply to post by freakjive
 


"NASA invents camera hood, puts it in space"


Seriously though, this is cool, I can't wait to see some actual exoplanets!

edit on 1-4-2014 by greencmp because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 1 2014 @ 12:22 PM
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reply to post by greencmp
 


Well played.

It's slightly disheartening that the images will likely just be specks, etc. It's still progress.



posted on Apr, 1 2014 @ 12:25 PM
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freakjive
reply to post by greencmp
 


Well played.

It's slightly disheartening that the images will likely just be specks, etc. It's still progress.


There are some other advancements that may give us real pictures. The polarized light filters which can isolate light from a single direction seem the most realistic to deploy in the short term.



posted on Apr, 1 2014 @ 03:56 PM
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Things like this are exciting, but it's always a bummer to realize the several years wait for them.



posted on Apr, 2 2014 @ 02:54 AM
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greencmp

freakjive
reply to post by greencmp
 


Well played.

It's slightly disheartening that the images will likely just be specks, etc. It's still progress.


There are some other advancements that may give us real pictures. The polarized light filters which can isolate light from a single direction seem the most realistic to deploy in the short term.


The planets will always look like dots of light due to their angular size because of how far away they are but at least we will get a chance to study the light they reflect.





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