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Astronomers building small space telescope to explore nearby stars

The telescope uses a mirror system with coatings optimized for ultraviolet light. Together with the camera, the system can measure very small changes in the brightness of M dwarf stars to carry out the primary science of the mission.

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The name of the stars which astronomers will study are called M-Dwarfs. Pixabay
The name of the stars which astronomers will study are called M-Dwarfs. Pixabay
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  • Astronomers are building a space telescope to study the nearby stars.
  • the telescope will be small along with a camera attached to it.
  • Studying these nearby stars will help astronomers help study the way planets orbit around the stars.

Astronomers are in the process of building a small space telescope to explore the flares and sunspots of small nearby stars to assess how habitable the space environment is for planets orbiting them.

The telescope with a diameter of 9 centimetres, or 3.6 inches, will be fitted on a spacecraft known as the Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat, or SPARCS to be launched in 2021, to focus on stars that are small, dim and cool by comparison to the sun.

Astronomers through this feat will be able study the path of planets.
Astronomers through this feat will be able study the path of planets.

These stars — known as M dwarfs — are less than half the sun’s size and temperature and they shine with barely one per cent of its brightness.

The telescope will be built alongside a camera with two ultraviolet (UV)-sensitive detectors to be optimised for observations using UV light, which strongly affects the planet’s atmosphere and its potential to harbour life on the surface.

“People have been monitoring M dwarfs as best they can in visible light. But the stars’ strongest flares occur mainly in the ultraviolet, which Earth’s atmosphere mostly blocks,” said Evgenya Shkolnik, Assistant Professor at the Arizona State University.

Although the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope can view stars at ultraviolet wavelengths unhindered, its overcrowded observing schedule would let it dedicate only the briefest of efforts to M dwarfs.

Telescope can view stars at ultraviolet wavelengths unhindered. Wikimedia Commons
Telescope can view stars at ultraviolet wavelengths unhindered. Wikimedia Commons

The telescope uses a mirror system with coatings optimized for ultraviolet light. Together with the camera, the system can measure very small changes in the brightness of M dwarf stars to carry out the primary science of the mission.

M dwarfs are exceedingly common that they make up three-quarters of all the stars in our Milky Way galaxy as well as nearly 40 billion rocky planets in habitable zones around these stars, meaning that most of the habitable-zone planets in our galaxy orbit M dwarfs.

Capturing lengthy observations of M dwarfs will let astronomers study how stellar activity affects planets that orbit the star. IANS

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Another Space Telescope Shuts Down: NASA

Launched by space shuttles in the 1990s, Hubble and Chandra are part of NASA's Great Observatories series.

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NASA's Chandra Observatory back in action. Pixabay

Another NASA space telescope has shut down and halted science observations.

Less than a week after the Hubble Space Telescope went offline, the Chandra X-ray Observatory did the same thing. NASA said Friday that Chandra automatically went into so-called safe mode Wednesday, possibly because of a gyroscope problem.

Hubble went into hibernation last Friday because of a gyroscope failure.

NASA
This illustration made available by NASA shows the Chandra X-ray Observatory. On Oct. 12, 2018, the space agency said that the telescope automatically went into so-called safe mode on Oct. 10, possibly because of a gyroscope problem. VOA

Both orbiting observatories are old and in well-extended missions: Hubble is 28, while Chandra is 19. Flight controllers are working to resume operations with both.

NASA said it’s coincidental both went “asleep” within a week of one another. An astronomer who works on Chandra, Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted Friday that “Chandra decided that if Hubble could have a little vacation, it wanted one, too.”

Also Read: Astronomers Capture 15,000 Galaxies Using Hubble Telescope

Launched by space shuttles in the 1990s, Hubble and Chandra are part of NASA’s Great Observatories series. The others are the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, which was also launched in the 1990s but eventually failed and was destroyed, and the Spitzer Space Telescope, launched in 2003 and still working. Each was intended to observe the cosmos in different wavelengths. (VOA)