The Search for Planets, Habitability, and Life in our Galaxy

What will the first evidence of life outside our own solar system look like? And what future technologies are required to discover that evidence? Exoplanet-hunting space-borne telescopes must suppress the bright glare from stars up to ten billion times in order to directly image the faint reflected light from a planet and look for tell-tale signatures of life. To tackle this challenge, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is developing two novel starlight suppression approaches: 1) coronagraphs (an internal occulter) and 2) starshades (an external occulter). We will discuss where these technologies are today, and how they must evolve in order to support possible exoplanet missions in the next decade and beyond.

Dr. Nick Siegler, Technology Manager, NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program, JPL