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Beyond Earthly Skies

Detecting Exoplanets Using Nanosatellites

30 Aug 2013, 16:52 UTC
Detecting Exoplanets Using Nanosatellites Bryan Kolb
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ExoplanetSat is a proposed miniature space telescope that is designed to seek out Earth-like planets orbiting nearby bright Sun-like stars using the transit method. When a planet happens to pass in front of its host star, it dims its host star by a small amount which depends on the planet-to-star area ratio. ExoplanetSat is comprised of 3 CubeSat units joined together with total dimensions of just 10 cm × 10 cm × 34 cm. CubeSats are a class of nanosatellites developed at Stanford University and California Polytechnic State University to facilitate low-cost access to space. A single CubeSat unit measures 10 cm on a side and has a mass on the order of 1 kg. By adopting the standardized CubeSat form factor, ExoplanetSat can be built at a much lower cost than a larger or non-standardized configuration. The compactness of ExoplanetSat allows it to piggyback the launch of large spacecraft to orbit which further reduces cost. Figure 1: Artist’s impression of an Earth-like planet. Credit: Bryan KolbExoplanetSat will monitor a single Sun-like star for the presence of transiting planets. If a transiting planet is detected, the star will become a high-priory target for follow-on observations. A transiting planet offers a ...

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