Scientists have recently developed a new technology that will allow them to block light coming from distant stars, allowing surrounding exoplanets to be studied easier.
This new technology is called a starshade. It is a giant shade that will be positioned in front of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The large object will block the light coming from a star, giving the JWST a better view of the planets orbiting that star. The starshade is the size of a baseball diamond (34 m diameter) with its own propulsion system. Its design was based on a Japanese origami art.
Scientist have discovered currently existing planets orbiting different stars, but these stars are very bright and make it difficult to observe the planets. The planets are not easily studied as their dim appearance is outshined by the stars’ brightness.
As of now, there are more than 3,000 planets outside of our own solar system, confirmed by NASA’s space telescopes. There are a handful of newly-discovered planets that resemble Earth, which may have the ability to support life. As astronomers are now able to have a clearer view of these distant planets, it will be easier for them to confirm whether a planet is life-supporting or not.
Check out this video from Wired to learn more: