The next NASA flagship missions concept presented by astronomers

Astronomers are building the case for a fresh mission to look for Earth-like planets beyond our solar system. 

The mission dubbed “HabEx” for “The Habitable Exoplanets Observatory,” could use a telescope with a mirror bigger than Hubble’s and would use origami techniques in utilizing an external “starshade” that would block the light coming from the mother star. This would enable the look for and dim planets in the star’s orbit characterization. This is in accordance with today’s presentation at the yearly meeting of the American Geophysical Union. 

Scott Gaudi who is one of the project’s co-chairs stated that their aim is to see if they can find a planet similar to Earth, a planet that can support life. He added that while they have come across a number of planets from beyond the solar system. Thus far, none of the planets observed has shown the elements necessary for life support. 

Gaudi, the Ohio State University astronomy professor said that the mission is going to be the next logical step in the look for similar planets to that of our own planet. 

The project is among the four-mission concept proposed by NASA to be “the next Great Observatory” a large mission scale that will serve an important role in space science. This is what the United States of America has invested in the next ten years to come. The federal Decadal Survey plans to make its recommendation on which project likely to receive financing by 2021 if there is any. If promised, the mission is likely not to launch until 2030. 

Gaudi said that HabEx would have a 4 meters wide mirror as compared to that of Hubble’s, which is 2.4 meters wide. This mirror used in conjunction with a starshade in searching the skies for some light coming from other planets. The light is id drowned out typically by brighter nearby stars light including our own sun. He added that HabEx could deflect starlight with the use of the starshade. This is a 52-meter disk, with a flower shape. This particular disc can go into the space folded into a tight spiral.

The starshade unfolds the moment the satellite reaches its orbit and flies close to 77,000 kilometers away from the telescope. These flies make it block the light coming from stars but instead allow light reflecting off from other planets to reach the telescopes tools. 

Ryszard Stopczyk