Alien planets: A first-of-its-kind observatory will boost the search for exoplanets

It contains a huge starshade that blocks light from stars to help giant telescopes study distant exoplanets.
Deena Theresa
An exoplanet in outer space.Marje/iStock

Recently, NASA confirmed the discovery of more than 5,000 exoplanets, raising the possibility of alien life on other worlds.

But getting an accurate picture of these exoplanets, let alone determining if they are habitable, is immensely complex. 

"The ability to look for exoplanets - planets that orbit around stars - is one of the hardest optical engineering challenges we've ever tried. And it's not been solved," John C Mather, senior astrophysicist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, told IE. "It's a matter of high priority for astronomers because we would definitely like to know if we're alone."

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