An advanced telescope imaging system, called Project 1640, has been the first of its kind to detect planets orbiting around stars outside of our own solar system. After six years of development with NASA, the American Museum of Natural History and the California Institute of Technology, the telescope made of high-tech instruments and software has returned its first images.
Since planets orbiting around other stars are difficult to see due to the amount of light they produce, Project 1640 creates “dark holes” around the stars so the planets can be made visible. The images show a star that is about one and a half times larger than our sun.
“All indications point to a tremendous diversity of planetary systems, far beyond what was imagined just 10 years ago. We are on the verge of an incredibly rich new field,” said Gautam Vasisht of NASA Let Propulsion Laboratory. Once the exoplanets are made visible, researchers can determine the colors they produce, their atmospherical chemical compositions and and even physical characteristics of their surfaces.
The team plans on using the advanced telescope to study hundreds of stars outside of our solar system over the next three years.