PIA20907: Starshade Deployment
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Figure 1
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This image shows the deployment of a half-scale starshade with four petals at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in 2014. A larger view of the deployed structure is also available (Figure 1).

The full scale of this starshade (not shown) will measure at 34 meters, or approximately 111 feet. The flower-like petals of the starshade are designed to diffract bright starlight away from telescopes seeking the dim light of exoplanets. The starshade was re-designed from earlier models to allow these petals to furl, or wrap around the spacecraft, for launch into space.

Once in space, the starshade will need to expand from its tightly-packed launch shape to become large and umbrella-like, ideal for blocking starlight. Each petal is covered in a high-performance plastic film that resembles gold foil. On a starshade ready for launch, the thermal gold foil will only cover the side of the petals facing away from the telescope, with black on the other, so as not to reflect other light sources such as the Earth into its lens.

Starlight-blocking technologies such as the starshade are being developed to help image exoplanets, with a focus on Earth-sized, habitable worlds.

To learn more about these technologies, visit http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6454.

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