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NASA is creating an 'artificial star' to launch it into space amidst celestial bodies

The mission is named after the late astronomer Arlo Landolt.

NASA is creating an 'artificial star' to launch it into space amidst celestial bodies
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay

We've marveled at space and its wonders, but did you ever imagine humans could create a fake star? Well, NASA is making it a reality. By the end of this decade, NASA plans to launch a new star into the sky to enhance astronomical measurements, according to LiveScience. The Landolt NASA Space Mission aims to send an artificial star satellite into Earth's orbit by early 2029.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Neale LaSalle
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Neale LaSalle

The Landolt mission will cost $19.5 million and will be carried out by George Mason University in collaboration with NASA, according to a statement by the University. The main aim of the mission is to help astronomers calculate the absolute flux calibration of distant stars. This is the measurement of the rate of light particles, or photons, emitted by stars, which is difficult to measure otherwise, partly because atmospheric interference alters the light observed by telescopes, reports LiveScience. Additionally, there are no reference points for absolute flux calibration other than the sun. The researchers will be able to control the photon output of the new satellite so the fake star will become a reference point for telescopes to compare it against real stars.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Lucas Pezeta
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Lucas Pezeta

Eliad Peretz, NASA Goddard mission and instrument scientist, and Landolt’s deputy principal investigator said, “This mission is focused on measuring fundamental properties that are used daily in astronomical observations. It might impact and change the way we measure or understand the properties of stars, surface temperatures, and the habitability of exoplanets.” The fake star will be “about the size of a proverbial breadbox." It will have eight lasers which will make it similar to any type of star or supernova when it is viewed by a ground-based telescope. It will be put up 22,236 miles above Eather’s surface and will orbit around it. The orbit will help the star to move keeping it in place over the United States during its first year in space.

“This is what is considered an infrastructure mission for NASA, supporting the science in a way that we’ve known we needed to do, but with a transformative change in how we do it,” Peter Plavchan, a George Mason associate professor of physics and astronomy and the Landolt Mission primary investigator said. The scientists will use the more accurate data from the project to understand stellar evolution, habitable zones, or exoplanets in proximity to Earth, and refine dark energy parameters. "When we look at a star with a telescope, no one can tell you today the rate of photons or brightness coming from it with the desired level of accuracy,” Plavchan said.

He added, “We will now know exactly how many photons-per-second come out of this source to .25 percent accuracy.” However, everyone will not be able to see the stars in the night sky. Plavchan said, "It will be more than 100 times too faint to see with the human eye but will be easy to see for moderate-sized telescopes equipped with digital cameras." The mission is named after the late astronomer Arlo Landolt, who put together widely used catalogs of stellar brightness throughout the 1970s and 1990s.

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