NASA's Sunflower-Shaped Starshade Could Help Astronomers Take Better Pictures of Exoplanets

Posted on March 29, 2014

NASA Starshade prototype would help astronomers take pictures of exoplanets


NASA is working on a prototype spacecraft named Starshade that could help astronomers take better pictures of planets orbiting other stars. Starshade would help suppress starlight so it would be easier for astronomers using a space-based telescope to view exoplanets. Starshade would be one part of a two-spacecraft observation system. It could be positioned precisely between the telescope and the star that's being observed. NASA says Starshade could block starlight before it even reaches the telescope's mirrors.

Dr. Stuart Shaklan, JPL's lead engineer on the starshade project, says in a statement, "The shape of the petals, when seen from far away, creates a softer edge that causes less bending of light waves. Less light bending means that the starshade shadow is very dark, so the telescope can take images of the planets without being overwhelmed by starlight."

Take a look:



Photo: NASA JPL