NASA Has a Genius Way to Find New Earths — And Speed Up the Search for New Life

The Fifth Column

NASA Has a Genius Way to Find New Earths — And Speed Up the Search for New Life

Image Credit: NASA

SCIENCE.MIC

The more exoplanets we find and study, the closer we get to figuring out if life exists somewhere else in the universe.

But finding exoplanets is a tricky business. That’s why NASA engineers are developing a giant, flower-shaped starshade to block out starlight and make it easier for astronomers to spot them.

None animated GIF

Source: NASA

Normally, astronomers find exoplanets by waiting for them to pass directly in front of their host stars; the temporary dip in brightness can tip us off to their existence.

This is a difficult method to use, though. Exoplanets are extremely far away, so they appear very small and faint to us. And with all the background starlight, it’s a wonder we can spot them at all.

It’s very likely that we’ve missed some exoplanets and even gotten some false positives for planets that aren’t really there. The starshade will correct…

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