Perfecting the technology needed for ‘starshades’ to visualize exoplanets

NASA engineers are studying the feasibility of a giant starshade that could be remotely positioned to block out a targeted sun, allowing a precisely positioned space telescope tens of thousands of kilometers away to directly image Earth-size exoplanets that otherwise would be drowned out in the star’s glare.


In the system currently being modeled, the starshade would unfold in space like a flower blossom, expanding to a diameter of 26 meters (85 feet) or so. The exoplanet-hunting telescope would then be positioned up to 40,000 kilometers (25,000 miles) away. For that system to work, the two spacecraft would have to maintain their precise separation to within 1 meter (3 feet).



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