NASA Space Program Will Send An Artificial Star Into Space

NASA Space Program Will Send An Artificial Star Into Space

In the coming years, the glitter of stars in the night sky could be joined by the glow of laser beams.

The Landolt Mission, a new NASA space project, aims to launch an artificial “star” into Earth’s orbit. The project’s goal is to improve the accuracy of absolute flux calibration, also known as star brightness.

The mission ground control will be headquartered at George Mason University in Virginia.

The project builds upon the work of its inspiration and namesake, Arlo Landolt, a late astronomer and pioneer of star brightness catalogs.

“His last name is famous in the whole astronomy community. The Landolt standard star…everyone knows what that is,” said Daniel Huber, an associate astronomer and professor at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy.

The new study will compare the brightness of an artificial star to that of real stars. The “star,” which is actually a satellite equipped with eight lasers, will orbit the Earth 35,785 kilometers into space, far enough to imitate the characteristics of a genuine star.

While the satellite will be too faint to detect with the human eye, it will be visible with a personal telescope.

Scientists will observe the “star” from telescopes at numerous sites, including the University of Hawaii.

Since the satellite has a known emission rate of photons, scientists will be able compare the brightness of the lasers to the brightness of the stars, creating more precise measurements of brightness and new stellar brightness catalogs.

The experiment, if successful, might have wide-reaching impact.

“We always relate on the amount of light stars send us to derive almost everything in astronomy,” Jonathan Gangé, the scientific adviser for the Montreal Planetarium and an adjunct professor at the University of Montreal, told VOA.

Gangé is one of the scientists working in the research, and he will help decide which stars to measure.

The project’s findings can be used to better understand the evolution of stars and the composition of exoplanets, which have the potential to support life. More accurate measurements may also lead to a better understanding of dark energy and the rate at which the universe expands.

The study could possibly aid in the discovery of other Earth-like planets for future human settlement.

“There’s a group of people, the exoplanet experts, who like to make predictions as to where they might see an Earth-like planet, and it’s really important for them to understand the properties of stars,” said Susana Deustua, a physical scientist for the National Institute of Standards and Technology and mission liaison.

While the initiative has many possible practical uses, members are equally enthusiastic about the intangibles, such as mentoring a new generation of scientists.

According to Peter Plavchan, George Mason associate professor of physics and astronomy and lead investigator for the Landolt Mission, the project’s collaborative and pedagogical aspect draws on humanities fields.

“We devised this innovative approach, which essentially borrows from theatre. It’s an understudy arrangement where senior project jobs on the mission are paired with junior scientists and engineers. “It’s a true partnership,” Plavchan told VOA.

The exact launch date has yet to be determined, although it is scheduled to occur in 2029.

Blue Canyon Technologies and the University of Victoria are among the other cooperating institutions.