Have a question? Call 952.469.8240   |   Need service or parts? Call 952.469.8230

NASA: Testing Exoplanet-Imaging Technology


NASA tests the next-generation tool for observing planets outside our solar system (exoplanets). The Nancy Grace Roman Coronagraph passed two critical tests and is designed to block light from bright cosmic objects like stars and enable exoplanet imaging and direct planet observation. It is built at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California and will be launched as a part of NASA’s Roman Space Telescope by 2027.

Feng Zhao, deputy project manager for the Roman Coronagraph at JPL, said, “This is such an important and nerve-wracking stage of building a spacecraft instrument, testing whether or not everything works as intended,” adding, “But we have an amazing team who built this thing, and it passed the electrical components tests with flying colors.

In the effort of searching for life outside our solar systems, coronagraphs are likely to present a critical tool, since the reflected light or emitted by a planet carries information about the chemicals in its atmosphere and signs of habitability. In particular, the Roman Coronagraph will test the light-blocking capabilities that are minimum 10 times better than the technologies available today.

It will also make 3D maps of the cosmos in order to explore how the galaxies have formed as well as why the expansion of the universe is speeding up. However, even in this case, a whole month of observation of a planet might be needed as a result of the faint light from planets outside our solar system.

Clement Gaidon, the Roman Coronagraph electrical systems engineer at JPL, said, “The electric fields we generate with the antennas are about the same strength as what’s generated by a computer screen,” adding, “That’s a pretty benign level, all things considered, but we have very sensitive hardware onboard. Overall, the instrument did a fantastic job navigating across the electromagnetic waves. And props to the team for wrapping this test campaign in record time!

Article Source: NASA/Caltech