NASA Wants to Build a ‘Starshade’ to Hunt for Alien Planets

Starshade exoplanet-hunting missions may be technologically daunting, but not beyond NASA’s reach. Such a mission would employ a space telescope and a separate craft flying about 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) ahead of it. This latter probe would be equipped with a large, flat, petaled shade designed to block starlight, potentially allowing the telescope to directly image orbiting alien worlds as small as Earth that would otherwise be lost in the glare. Instruments called coronagraphs, which have been installed on multiple ground-based and space telescopes, work on the same light-blocking principle. But coronagraphs are incorporated into the telescope itself.



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