Synthetic Star to Aid in Unraveling Various Cosmic Enigmas


George Mason University researchers, in collaboration with NASA, are preparing to launch an artificial star into space. This unique space mission, named after the late American astronomer Arlo Landolt, aims to improve the clarity of observations made by ground-based telescopes by eliminating atmospheric interference. It is hoped that this will lead to a better understanding of the universe.

The Landolt NASA Space Mission will see a micro-sized satellite equipped with eight high-precision lasers mimicking a star. Although not visible to the naked eye, the artificial star will be detectable by small telescopes. The mission, which is expected to cost $19.5 million, is scheduled to launch to a geosynchronous orbit in 2029.

The brightness of distant stars is critical to our understanding of various astronomical phenomena, such as the expansion of the universe. However, the accuracy of brightness measurements is currently limited, hindering progress in this field. The Landolt mission aims to address this by providing an artificial star with a known magnitude, enabling more precise calibration of telescopes and significantly improving the quality of data collected.

The artificial star will be housed in a 12U Platform CubeSat, a small satellite no larger than a bread box, and will weigh no more than 24 kg (53 pounds). The plan is to launch it aboard a SpaceX rocket as part of the company’s SmallSat Rideshare Program, which sends multiple CubeSats into orbit with each trip.

Once in a geosynchronous orbit, the Landolt star will allow astronomers to calibrate their telescopes under known laser wavelength and power, effectively removing the effects of atmospheric filtration of light. This will enable more accurate measurements of stellar properties, potentially transforming our understanding of stars, their surface temperatures, and the habitability of exoplanets.

The Landolt Space Mission represents a significant advancement in astronomy and has the potential to shed light on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries. As such, it is eagerly anticipated by the global astronomical community.



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