PIA20901: Starshade Night Test
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 Produced By:  Northrup Grumman 
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Original Caption Released with Image:

A night test of a small-scale starshade model, in a dry lake bed in central Nevada's Smith Creek by Northrup Grumman, took place in May to June 2014. A telescope points toward a bright light, which in the darkness of the desert mimics the conditions of starlight in space. Other lights, which are up to 10 million times fainter than the light source standing in for the star, represent the reflected light of planets. Telescopes searching for the relatively dim light of an exoplanet next to its much brighter star are faced with a challenge as difficult as searching from Los Angeles for a firefly in New York -- if the firefly is next to the brightness of a lighthouse.

The tests by Northrup Grumman determined that a starshade, or external occulter, is capable of blocking starlight to a degree that can indeed reveal the light of a planet.

To learn more about technologies in development to help take images of exoplanets, visit http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6454.

Image Credit:
NASA/Northrop Grumman Corporation

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