NASA Set to Send Artificial Star With Eight Lasers Into Space

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Jun 20, 2024

NASA’s Landolt mission aims to launch an artificial star equipped with eight lasers into space. This $19.5 million mission will help scientists get more accurate measurements of real stars and study dark energy.

The spacecraft is set to launch in 2029 and will orbit the planet at a synchronous orbit of 22,236 miles.

The Artificial Star

The artificial star, created by beaming lasers into instruments on Earth, is designed to mimic celestial objects like supernovas.

exploding star in space

Source: Freepik

This allows scientists to make precise measurements of true stellar brightness. According to David Ciardi, this mission will improve brightness measurements by more than a factor of ten.

Honoring Arlo Landolt

Named after astronomer Arlo Landolt, the mission pays tribute to his contributions to stellar photometry. Landolt’s catalogs of stellar brightness have been invaluable since 1973.

A photograph taken of the stars at night with a tree off to the side

Source: Wikimedia

University of Hawaii astronomer Daniel Huber mentioned that Landolt’s name is well-known in the astronomy community.

Importance of Stellar Brightness

Understanding stellar brightness is crucial for studying stars and the planets that orbit them. Precise measurements help researchers determine the habitability of exoplanets.

A bright explosive-like light with a glowing blue orb hovering in space to the top left of it.

Source: NOIRLab, M. Zamani/Wikimedia Commons

As mission member Jamie Tayar noted, knowing the energy output of stars is essential for assessing whether other planets could support life.

Studying Dark Energy

One of the mission’s goals is to study dark energy, the mysterious force causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate.

A photograph of a man looking at the stars

Source: Wikimedia

By comparing the brightness of the artificial star with distant stars, scientists hope to gain insights into this phenomenon.

Technical Details

The Landolt spacecraft will maintain a geosynchronous orbit, remaining stationary over a single point on Earth. This stable positioning ensures continuous observations and accurate data collection.

The sun sets in brilliant colors as the stars are visible.

Source: Vincentiu Solomon/Unsplash

The artificial star, while not visible to the naked eye, can be seen through telescopes and will provide a new benchmark for stellar brightness.


Laser Technology

The mission will use eight lasers to create the artificial star. These lasers will beam back to instruments on Earth, allowing for precise calibration and measurement.

A distant photograph of Earth taken over 3.8 billion miles away

Source: NASA

This innovative use of laser technology is at the core of the Landolt mission’s ability to improve stellar brightness measurements.


Mission Objectives

The primary objectives of the Landolt mission include refining stellar brightness measurements, studying dark energy, and improving our understanding of exoplanet habitability.

A photograph of planet Earth with the sun in the background

Source: Wikimedia

By achieving better accuracy, the mission aims to make significant contributions to astrophysics and our knowledge of the cosmos.


Collaborating Institutions

Several institutions are involved in the Landolt mission, including NASA, Caltech, and the University of Florida. These collaborations bring together expertise from various fields, ensuring the mission’s success.

Two Person in Long-sleeved Shirt Shakehand

Source: Cytonn Photography/Pexels

Jamie Tayar and David Ciardi are among the key scientists contributing to this groundbreaking project.


Impact on Future Research

The data collected by the Landolt mission will set a new standard for stellar photometry. This will impact future research by providing more accurate reference points for studying stars and exoplanets.

An image of several scientists working on data in their office

Source: Wikimedia

The mission’s findings could lead to new discoveries and enhance our understanding of the universe.


Launch Preparations

Preparations for the 2029 launch are already underway. The mission team is working on finalizing the spacecraft design and ensuring all systems are ready for deployment.

Boeing’s Starliner craft seen on its launchpad in the evening.

Source: NASA/Joel Kowsky/Wikimedia Commons

The successful launch and operation of the Landolt mission will mark a significant milestone in space exploration and astrophysics.


Looking Ahead

The Landolt mission represents a major leap forward in our quest to understand the universe.

An artist's rendition of an asteroid flying through space

Source: Wikimedia

By sending an artificial star into space, NASA is pushing the boundaries of what we know about stars, exoplanets, and dark energy.