California, March 24 IANS | 4 months ago

A spacecraft that looks like a giant sunflower might one day be used to acquire images of earth-like planets around nearby stars, scientists say.


The spacecraft called 'starshade' is being developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

"The proposed 'starshade' could launch together with a telescope. Once in space, it would separate from the rocket and telescope, unfurl its petals, then move into position to block the light of stars," Jeremy Kasdin, a professor at New Jersey-based Princeton University, informed.

The hunt is on for planets that resemble earth in size, composition and temperature.

Rocky planets with just the right temperature for liquid water - not too hot, not too cold - could be possible abodes for life outside our solar system.

NASA's Kepler mission has discovered hundreds of planets orbiting other stars, called exoplanets, some of which are a bit larger than the earth.

The 'starshade' is designed to help take those pictures of planets by blocking out the overwhelmingly bright light of their stars, Kasdin explained.

The 'starshade' is like holding your hand up to the sun to block it while taking a picture of somebody, he said.

(Posted on 24-03-2014)