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10:23 23 August
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Giant telescope to search for alien life in Alpha centauri


The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has announced a partnership with the Breakthrough Starshot program to modify one of their telescopes to search for habitable planets in Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to Earth, APA reports quoting sputniknews.

 

Stars exude far more light than the planets that orbit them, making it difficult for astronomers to discover and learn about exoplanets. The ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile will be modified with a new imager and spectrometer called the VISIR that will parse infrared light into its component wavelengths, allowing it to better differentiate stellar light and more easily find planets. Breakthrough Starshot's modification is meant to allow the VLT to discover more planets in Alpha Centauri.

 

Breakthrough Starshot is one of several initiatives funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, meant to discover and contact alien life. Starshot's ultimate goal is to send thousands of nano-probes, each weighing a few grams, to Alpha Centauri. The probes would be equipped with cameras to better investigate planets orbiting Alpha Centauri. But before they can launch their probes, they must identify planets for the probes to visit.

 

At just 4.37 light-years away, Alpha Centauri is the most likely first destination for humanity when interstellar travel becomes feasible. ESO confirmed the existence of a planet, Proxima B, in August 2016, reigniting scientific interest in the trinary star system. Proxima B is within its star's "habitable zone," making it a planet that could potentially support life. Another planet, Alpha Centauri Bc, was proposed in March 2015, based on Hubble Telescope data, but astronomers have not confirmed its existence. Bc, if it does exist, is very close to its star and likely covered in magma.

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