• Mon. Dec 11th, 2023

Revolutionizing Space Imaging: Harnessing the Power of Deformable Mirrors to Reveal Earth-Like Planets


Nov 21, 2023

Detecting an Earth-like planet presents a significant challenge due to the fact that the planet is approximately 10 billion times fainter than its parent star. The key obstacle lies in the need to block almost all of the star’s light in order to capture the faint light reflected from the planet. This requires the use of a coronagraph to block the starlight. However, any instability in the telescope’s optics, such as misalignment between mirrors or a change in the mirror’s shape, can lead to leakage of starlight and cause glare that masks the planet.

As a result, detecting an Earth-like planet using a coronagraph necessitates precise control of both the telescope and the instrument’s optical quality, or wavefront, to an exceptional level of 10s of picometers (pm). This is roughly on the order of the size of a hydrogen atom, emphasizing the extraordinary precision needed for this endeavor. The team must ensure that every component in their system works perfectly together and that they have accounted for all possible sources of error or distortion. Even small imperfections can lead to significant errors and make it difficult to see planets like Earth.

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