NASA Sunflower Spacecraft to Help Find Earth-Like Planets

NASAIt was reported during a Ted talk on March 19,2014, by project leader and Princeton University professor Jeremy Kasdin, NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), has began building a prototype of a sunflower spacecraft to help NASA and their search for Earth-like planets. NASA and their JPL team’s philosophy behind the spacecraft  is that it will help astronomers capture more images of planets and star clusters. With its unique pedal like structures, the goal is to find and photograph rocky Earth-like planets and their nearby stars, to determine if they are in habitual “goldilocks” zones.  If NASA can find an Earth-like planet with a sun in relatively the same proximity as Earth’s, the chances for alien life become apparent.

NASA for the past decade has publicly announced their hunt for planets that resemble the composition, texture, and temperature of Earth. Rocky planets, rather then their giant gas based counterparts, are much more likely to harbor the temperatures favorable for liquid water. If NASA can discover water outside the solar system, it is likely they will also discover life, given that water exists with a formidable atmosphere and is responsible for nearly all life on Earth. In recent news NASA’s Kepler mission discovered 715 new planets orbiting an array of star systems. These exoplanets proved to have 3 potential individual planets that were determined to be in “goldilocks” zones, two of which were much larger than Earth. The NASA sunflower spacecraft is designed to help Kepler’s legacy and continue to find Earth-like planets, hopefully with even greater efficiency.

It has been reported through the scientific community, that astronomers will ultimately fid the perfect twin of Earth. With a universe of unlimited possibilities and millions of potential solar systems, NASA researches believe that it is only a matter of time. Once identified by the spacecraft, the next prerogative would be to photograph and characterize the spectra and the planets chemical signatures. The chemistry on the planet will dictate the life composition,like Earth and its carbon based life forms. The chemical signatures will ultimately tell NASA if their is a possibility of life, or the ability to support life in the future.

The sunflowers space craft has also proposed a star-shade system to launch with the telescope. The spacecraft’s star-shade is designed to block out the extreme amounts of bright light emitted by stars, helping the space craft take more enriched and definable images.  Once they are both in space they would operate separately  separated from the telescope and its rocket, therefore it has been proposed that the star-shade may not launch with the sunflower telescope rather possibly at a later date.

Either way the telescope would certainly be a feature to see as a rocket and telescope twirling to unfurl its pedals as it moves in position to block the blinding light of the stars. The NASA sunflower spacecrafts has a job to do, to help find Earth-like planets that possible could or already do support life. However the telescope also operates as an artistic extension of Earth’s very own life composition, with one of its most beautiful flowers roaming the universe.

Editorial by Zane Foley

Sources:

NASA

JPL

Science Daily

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