HabEx telescope will go on 10-year search
Published : Tuesday, 31 December, 2019 at 7:44 PM Count : 129
NASA is set to launch a mission in the 2030s with a goal of finding a 'second Earth' in our galaxy.
Called Habitable Exoplanet Observatory or HabEx, it would use a telescope with a mirror that is nearly twice the size as the one aboard the Hubble Telescope - the mirror will be 13 feet wide, compared to Hubble's 7-foot mirror.
HabEx is set to embark on its journey with a companion starshade designed to block interfering glare from a nearby star, allowing it to search orbiting exoplanets for signs of life such as water and carbon dioxide.
The project is one of four mission concepts proposed by NASA to be 'the next Great Observatory', but is set to be the most expensive with a seven billion dollar while it explores deep space for 10 years.
The federal Decadal Survey intends to make its recommendation on which project – if any – should receive funding by 2021.
Scott Gaudi, one of the project's co-chairs, said: 'Our goal is to see if we can find a planet that is similar to Earth – one that can support life.'
'While we've identified a number of planets outside our solar system, so far, none have conclusively been shown to have the elements necessary for habitability.'
HabEx's mirror will be 13 feet wide, which is much larger than Hubbles – it is only 7.8 feet wide.
Because the light is usually drowned out by brighter lights from nearby stars, HabEx would deflect starlight using the starshade – a 170-foot flower-shaped disk that would go into space folded origami-like into a tight spiral.
Once in orbit, the starshade would unfold and fly approximately 47,845 miles from the telescope and blocking light before it reaches HabEx's instruments.
The telescope would then travel through the depths of space in search of stars that are similar to our sun.
It would investigate these cosmic bodies to see if there are orbiting planets that have water or carbon dioxide – two signs that a planet might be habitable.
The telescope would also have a camera that could take pictures of nearby planetary systems.
Those pictures would be the first 'family portraits' of those systems, Gaudi said.
The telescope would have additional instrumentation as well, including a coronagraph, a piece of equipment that can also characterize planets outside our solar system and record images of them.
The mission is designed to collect data on exoplanets for about a decade and the telescope would also run other experiments to attempt to understand more about our own solar system.-Daily Mail