We’re another small step closer to finding new Earth-like planets


Some interesting things are going on down here … that might just affect how we see what’s going on out there.

Two recent reports from two Science and Technology Definition Teams from NASA’s astrophysics division have detailed proposals to detect extrasolar planets orbiting nearby stars. One report studied a concept based on a telescope with an internal coronagraph capable of generating the ultra-high contrast images needed for planet detection. The other evaluated the feasibility of flying a pair of spacecraft in formation — a telescope and an external starshade. I worked on this report (and talked about said starshade in my talk at TED2014, The flower-shaped starshade that might help us detect Earth-like planets). And while it’s still far from certain that such a mission will happen, the thinking now is that we could add the starshade spacecraft onto an existing space telescope mission, which is potentially a…

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