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Mini-Hubble will scan dim stars to see if they can support life

Mini-Hubble will scan dim stars to see if they can support life
From Engadget - January 11, 2018

The telescope is just 9 centimeters, or 3.6-inchs in diameter, and equipped with a camera and two ultraviolet-sensitive detectors. Most stellar ultraviolet radiation is blocked by the Earth's atmosphere, but the orbiting SPARCS, despite its small size, will have a clear view.

"This is a mission to the borderland of astrophysics and astrobiology," Evgenya Shkolnik, principal investigator for the SPARCS mission, told ASU. "We are going to study the habitability and high-energy environment around stars that we call M dwarfs."

The SPARCS mission will scan red dwarf stars less than half the size of our sun and with 1 percent of the brightness, like the one at the heart of the Trappist-1 system. Such stars are 20 times more plentiful than yellow dwarfs like our own sun, so there are about 40 billion of them in the Milky Way galaxy.

On top of that, researchers have found that one in four M Dwarfs have a rocky planet within their habitable zones where liquid water could exist. It's also easier for telescopes like Hubble to spot exoplanets around such stars, as the dimming when they pass in front is more more noticeable.

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