Astronomers believe that every star in the galaxy has a planet, one fifth of which might harbor life. Only we haven’t seen any of them — yet. Jeremy Kasdin and his team are looking to change that with the design and engineering of an extraordinary piece of equipment: a flower petal-shaped “starshade” that allows a telescope to photograph planets from 50,000 kilometers away. It is, he says, the “coolest possible science.”

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