Using Zeppelins to find planets? It sounds far fetched but it makes sense when you consider that Astronomers use two basic methods to find planets around other stars. They watch to see if a star dims when a planet passes in front of it, and they watch to see if a star wobbles when a planet orbits around it.
The idea is to use a large object as you would when you’re trying to see something near the sun. You know, how you hold up your hand to shade your eyes? That’s the idea behind a starshade: it would sit between a telescope and a star, and block out most of the light from the star to make it easier to see things close by, like exoplanets.
It’s a simple and brilliant plan. You’ll have to wait until about 2018 to see it in action. For now, NASA will start small and use a zeppelin to hold a starshade above a telescope on the ground for a few days to see how well it works. Eureka is the 246-foot zeppelin that they will work with.
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