PIA20908: Starshade Test in Nevada
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A test of a small-scale starshade model in a dry lake bed in central Nevada's Smith Creek by Northrup Grumman in May-June 2014. A telescope points toward a bright light, which 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 bright star are faced with a challenge as difficult as searching from Los Angeles for a firefly in New York -- if the firefly is also beside a lighthouse.

These tests determined that a starshade, or external occulter, is indeed capable of blocking starlight to a degree that reveals the light of a planet.

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

Image Credit:
NASA/Northrop Grumman Corporation

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