Bendable mirror telescope — a step towards finding life outside our Solar system

Even on the vast expanses of the smallest details can make a big difference. An experiment at mit, which is about to begin, will show you why. Cubesat with a Deformable Mirror Demonstration Mission (DeMi) will test a new mirror for the telescope before the end of this year. It will help to equip future satellites with the tools to search for extrasolar planets that might be inhabited by life.

This mirror is exceptional. But this is not visible when seen from afar. Behind its reflective surface 140 are tiny actuators (actuators) that allow the mirror to Flex and adapt to more accurately read the light from the stars outside our Solar system.

Why telescopes bend the mirror?

Why is it necessary? The fact that the orbit it’s pretty hard. One side of the satellite can be hot in the sun; the other very cold. When the temperature changes the parts change in size and move. Rotation and propulsion can lead to vibration. “All these disturbances lead to the emergence of tiny specks on the images that you do,” says Kerry Kakha, associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of technology.

To fix this, a mirror can “feel” the mistakes in the picture and bend correcting them. This is done by analyzing the light entering the mirror. PCB send signals to the rods, which appropriately regulate the shape of the mirror. No need to move a lot: we’re talking about 10-20 nanometers. But even such small changes can deal with any distortion of light that enters the telescope. “A nice feature of this type of technology lies in how a good contract,” says Paula do Vale Pereira, a graduate student at mit, head of the mechanical part of the project.

Researchers could use a larger version of this deformable mirror to obtain a better quality image of stars block the light from the stars and shoot the nearby exoplanets. The mirror will also help them to better grasp the clear light, so it would be possible to discern a range of gases of the individual planets. It would be possible to understand the composition of the atmosphere, and to understand what we observe outside our Solar system.

Although this is only a test of the mirror in space, future missions, using a larger version of this mirror, it will look for gases such as carbon and traces of water, hinting at a life.

For space this technique may be new, but on Earth it was used for many years to combat the distortion caused by our own atmosphere. The terrestrial observatories have mirrors, which adapt many times per second, reacting to the testimony of the winds and atmospheric gases affect the light.

Ultimately, data from this small experiment will serve as a basis for future telescopes. Scientists would like to next telescope “was able to find out whether there is life on another planet, looking at the spectra of a planet or another star,” says Kakha.

Well, another step in the direction of extraterrestrial life. What do you think, does it exist? Tell us in our chat in Telegram.

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