NASA aims to observe new exoplanets but this time from space

The advanced coronagraph of the next space telescope Nancy Grace Roman of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (POT) has been integrated with the rest of the observatory in anticipation of its scheduled launch in May 2027.

Before being integrated into the telescope, the coronagraph was subjected to proof more exhaustive of its capabilities to block starlighta process known to engineers as “digging the dark hole.”

What is NASA’s plan to observe exoplanets from space?

During the test, readings from the coronagraph chamber show a donut shaped region around the central star gradually darkens as the team deflects more starlight away from it, hence the nickname “digging the dark hole.”

In space, an exoplanet hidden in this dark region would slowly appear while the instrument carries out its work with its deformable mirrorsaccording to NASA.

The Roman telescope’s coronagraph will demonstrate techniques that can remove more unwanted starlight than previous space coronagraphs, thanks to the use of several moving components. These moving parts make it the first coronagraph”asset” in being launched into space.

Its main tools are two deformable mirrorseach with a diameter of only 5 centimeters and backed by more than 2,000 small pistons that move up and down.

The pistons work together to alter the shape of deformable mirrorsallowing them to compensate for unwanted light leaking through the edges of the masks.

These types of technologies will be crucial for future missions, such as NASA’s proposed Habitable Worlds Observatory mission concept.

 
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