Charge Injection Device May Have the Ability to Detect New Planets Around Other Stars
An instrument prototype that may eventually help scientists find Earth-like planets is now being tested under the harsh conditions of space on the International Space Station’s JEM External Facility. The charge injection device, a type of sensitive camera designed by Daniel Batcheldor, department head of Physics and Space Sciences at Florida Institute of Technology, successfully took its first picture of a test pattern this week and will continue to take test pictures for six months as a part of its technology demonstration mission.
The CID has the ability to capture dim light coming from objects such as planets that can be obscured by the intense brightness a nearby star. Ordinary telescope cameras don’t have the ability to pick up light from individual pixels like the CID can, making it a potentially valuable (and relatively inexpensive) tool for identifying potential Earth-like planets.
The demonstration period will allow the CID to establish a technology readiness level (TRL), which is required by NASA to show the equipment can work in the relevant environment and is acceptable to fly in space.If the CID achieves a TRL of 7 by mission’s end, the CID will qualify for future space missions, either on a standalone satellite or as part of a space telescope. The latter is Batcheldor’s hope: he and his team will propose a telescope-based plan to NASA if the CID’s demonstration phase is successful.