A powerful tiny space telescope will scan nearby stars to see if they can support alien life

A tiny satellite will be soon launched into space which will help scientists get a better understanding of the nearby stars. The name of the small, powerful star and planet-hunting spacecraft is Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat or SPARCS. The SPARCS space telescope, funded by NASA, will be launched in 2021. The tiny telescope will monitor the flares and sunspots of small stars so as to know about the habitability of the planets surrounding those stars. So basically, through SPARCS, scientists want to know the degree of habitability that the stars posses for their orbiting planets.

The main aim of the small-sized telescope will be to closely monitor the solar activity around nearby stars. The SPARCS mission is led by the School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) of the Arizona State University. Evgenya Shkolnik, assistant professor at SESE, said that the SPARCS mission is a mission to the borderland of astrophysics and astrobiology and they are going to study the habitability and high-energy environment around stars which they call the M dwarfs.

The M dwarfs stars about which Shkolnik is talking about are comparatively cooler smaller and dimmer than our Own sun, and there are many of them inside the Milky Way Galaxy. Scientists want to deeply analyze those M-dwarf stars and their environment through SPARCS telescope. They want to know how favorable the conditions are around those stars to support alien life. Scientists have always believed that it’s not all about the favorable conditions inside the planets that enable the possibility of life inside them. Rather, the stars that these planets orbit also play a major in deciding the habitability of planets.

Normally it is seen that many stars release powerful and violent solar radiations that even if the surrounding planet bears the potential to support life, it would become completely uninhabitable under those powerful outbursts of solar radiation. Therefore, through SPARCS, scientists want to target the M dwarf stars because in those stars, the environment is little cooler and calmer and the solar radiations are not that much intense.

The astronomers have found out that the at least one planet orbits every M dwarf star and one can find a rocky planet orbiting in the habitable zone of M Dwarfs once in every four systems. This indicates that the planets orbiting in the habitable zone of M dwarfs might have temperatures that are neither too cool nor hot and they might also possess liquid water on their surface. But still, no one is certain about the strength of solar radiations that the M dwa4rfs release and whether the planets surrounding them have a thick protective atmosphere so block those solar flares.

Shkolnik said that people have been monitoring M dwarfs as best they can in visible light, but the stars’ strongest flares occur mainly in the ultraviolet, which Earth’s atmosphere mostly blocks. Hence, SPARCS will help the scientists to study those ultraviolet radiations coming out from the M dwarf stars. As per NASA, SPARCS spacecraft will consist of a nine cm wide telescope along with a camera having two ultraviolet-sensitive detectors.

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