NASA Reveals Enormous Space Sunflower that can help find Alien Planet [VIDEO]
By Parismita Goswami | March 25, 2014 6:42 PM EST
A spacecraft that looks like a huge sunflower may now help NASA scientists to discover an alien planet.
The sunflower-shaped spacecraft, Starshade will deploy to its full size once in space, and will block the light of distant stars allowing space-based telescopes to capture images of exoplanets that are around the stars.
NASA Reveals Enormous Space Sunflower that Can Help Find Alien Earth
Scientists believe that with the use of this technology, researchers could take direct images of other planets with alien life. "It's a very specialized screen in space. It blocks out the light from the star," Space.com quoted Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"Only the planet's light enters the telescope. This is not what we normally do. Traditionally, the telescope does everything... It's the only way to find Earths with a relatively small and simple space telescope," she added.
The Starshade acts as a giant umbrella as it opens up and positions itself between the star and telescope. The spacecraft blocks the starlight, thereby potentially exposing the previously hidden exoplanets.
It will be equipped with thrusters that will plan the craft's different positions during the path of the mission. Although the spacecraft will take time to shift in between locations in search of its target, it can execute other research works until the next star appears.
"This is the first time we've actually seen this thing deploy. That was a huge accomplishment," New Scientist quoted Jeremy Kasdin, a researcher from Princeton University.
The expected cost of the alien-hunt spacecraft mission is around $1 billion and is targeting 55 stars over a period of three years.
"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 without being overwhelmed by starlight," said Stuart Shaklan, lead engineer on the Starshade project.
Scientists aim to find exoplanets orbiting 22 of the 55 stars through this mission. The project is helpful as it has eliminated the need for expensive, large telescope, she emphasized.
"You don't need a very fancy telescope that's highly termally and mechanically stable. You can use any old telescope." Shaklan added.
Check out for the starshade video here:
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- Forever Lost: Indescribable Anguish for Malaysia Airlines MH17 Families, Remains of Some Victims May Never Be Found (PHOTOS)
- Global Aviation Accidents: UN to Form Safety Task Force, Gov'ts Should Share Intelligence Info to Avert Future Incidents on Flying Over Warzones (PHOTOS)
- Celebrities Who Got Pregnant Using IVF: Busting the Myths About IVF
- Lunch with the Gods: Pope Francis Eats with Vatican Workers in Cafeteria
Join the Conversation
- NASA Scientists Advance Understanding of Climate Change With The Help Of IceCube
- NASA: Early Earth Likely To Have Been Hit By Giant Asteroids
- First Ever Man-Made Leaf That Could Provide Oxygen During Space Travel: A Breathtaking Leap [Watch Video]
- Changes in Global Vegetation to Be Tracked Through Two New Instruments: NASA
- Hair Iron Could Spell the Future of Instant Hair Colour - US Engineers [Watch Video]
- Apple iPhone 6 Release Date Update: 6 Most Wanted Feature Upgrades for Next iPhone
- Moto X Android 4.4.4 KitKat Update Guide: Schedule and How to Install
- Top 4 Reasons Why iPhone 6 Will Hit Big Soon After its Sept 2014 Release Date
- Top Surprising Features Of iOS 8
- Twin Malaysia Airlines MH370, MH17 Aviation Disasters Create Phobia Among Travellers
- HTC One M8 Windows Phone to Launch for Verizon; Release Date, Price, Five Fresh Features to Anticipate for New Smartphone
- OnePlus One vs. Moto X+1 – Early Specifications, Release Date and Price Faceoff