Space Update: Star Shade Could Give Us First Detailed Pictures of Exoplanets

March 28, 2014 – NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been experimenting with the creation of a star shade which they call the starshade, all one word. It looks when unfolded like a giant sunflower and in conjunction with a space telescope can block starlight so that companion exoplanets can be revealed. This is very much works like the Moon in a solar eclipse. It blocks the sunlight so that the corona is revealed.

The sunflower shape isn’t just artistic. The petals soften the edge of the shade and cause less bending of the light waves. This ensures that the shadow the shade casts is very dark and serves well as a starlight blocker.

Still in prototype stage, the engineers designing the starshade plan to deploy a near-full scale model in the laboratory to measure its accuracy. One thing for sure, deploying it along with a space telescope would give us the means to see Earth-size exoplanets and even take a pretty good picture of them while studying light characteristics to determine their composition.



Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...