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Telescope to Hunt for Earth-like Planet, Alien Life in Alpha Centauri

Oct 12, 2016 04:08 AM EDT

Solar System's nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri is still in the limelight. After Stephen Hawking's Breakthrough Starshot, a nano craft that aims to reach the interstellar system in 20 years and the European Space Observatory's (ESO) discovery of a potentially habitable planet, another mission called "Project Blue" has its eye on Alpha Centauri. It will use a telescope to hunt for Earth-like planets and alien life in the star system.

Project Blue will launch a small telescope into Earth's orbit in 2019. The telescope will "spy" Alpha Centauri and will try to locate other Earth-like planets orbiting the nearest star system to Earth.

Earlier this year, ESO announced that researchers were able to find evidence that a potentially habitable planet is orbiting one of Alpha Centauri's stars, Proxima Centauri. The "potentially" habitable planet is known as Proxima B. The stars within Alpha Centauri are the closest neighbors to the Solar System's sun.

Experts say that Proxima Centauri has Sun-like properties making it easier to conclude that there could also be Earth-like planets that orbit the star. The use of a smaller telescope will be employed by researchers to study Alpha Centauri because the proximity of the star system to Earth makes it easier to view it even by just using a tiny and inexpensive instruments. One of its main missions is to find Earth-like exoplanets.

"There is an extremely high level of urgency and desire on the part of the astronomical community to get out there and find exoplanets that we can actually image and characterize around nearby stars," Jon Morse, CEO of the BoldlyGo Institute, one of the project leader said in an interview.

According to the project blue researchers, Earth 2.0 could be lingering near planet Earth. They will try to compare exoplanets to the "pale blue dot", an image of Earth taken by NASA"s Voyager 1 in 1990 that shows how this planet looked like from afar.

Project Blue is led by Mission Centaur, a project focused on finding Exoplanets in Alpha Centauri. The NGO is working with BoldlyGo, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and the University of Massachusetts Lowell in this project.


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