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Scientists Develop New Telescope Chip That Can Spy on Alien Life, ExoPlanets

Dec 07, 2016 08:31 PM EST
NASA Discusses Research Seeking Habitable Worlds Among The Stars
Researchers say the telescope chip aims to find a planet like Earth that could support life.
(Photo : Win McNamee / Staff)

A novel tool that can help humankind's quest for a new home planet.

Scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) have invented a groundbreaking optical chip for telescopes that will, for the first time, allow astronomers to get a good picture of alien planets outside the solar system despite the blinding brightness of the sun. Presently, there is no standard astronomical instrument available that can do the same.

In a press release, Dr. Madden from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering said, "The ultimate aim of our work with astronomers is to be able to find a planet like Earth that could support life. To do this we need to understand how and where planets form inside dust clouds, and then use this experience to search for planets with an atmosphere containing ozone, which is a strong indicator of life."

The optical chip project, which will be presented at the Australian Institute of Physics Congress in Brisbane this December, is a collaboration among physicists and astronomers of ANU and the researchers at the University of Sydney and the Australian Astronomical Observatory, Space Daily reports.

Based on over a decade worth of research on specialized optical materials and devices that has been supported CUDOS, a center of excellence funded by the Australian Research Council, the special optical chip exhibits the same working mechanism as noise-cancelling headphones, Dr. Madden explained. "This chip is an interferometer that adds equal but opposite light waves from a host sun which cancels out the light from the sun, allowing the much weaker planet light to be seen," he expanded.

According to PhD student Harry-Dean Kenchington Goldsmith, who developed the chip at the ANU Laser Physics Centre, the technology functions almost like the thermal imaging firefighters use to see through smoke.

"The chip uses the heat emitted from the planet to peer through dust clouds and see planets forming. Ultimately the same technology will allow us to detect ozone on alien planets that could support life," Mr. Goldsmith said, Eureka Alert writes.

Could humans live on a newly discovered exoplanet? Check out this video from CNN.

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