A team of scientists from Australia and the United States intends to build a telescope to launch into low Earth orbit and search for signs of life in the Alpha Centauri system, our solar system’s closest neighbor.
The search will focus on a nearby area of the system, which is distant only 4 light years from Earth, where temperatures could allow the presence of liquid water on the surface of rocky planets.
This project receives the title of Toliman, a name derived from the Arabic Alpha Centauri since ancient times.
“Our closest stellar neighbors, the Alpha Centauri and Proxima Centauri systems, are turning out to be extraordinarily interesting. The Toliman mission will be a great step to discover if there are planets capable of supporting life, ”the authors said in a statement.
This telescope will use a new diffractive pupil lens to measure the position of the three stars in search of small movements that indicate the gravitational pull of a planet on them.
“Astronomers have access to amazing technologies that allow us to find thousands of planets circling stars in vast expanses of the galaxy. Yet we hardly know anything about our own heavenly backyard. “
This project has the participation of scientists from the University of Sydney and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and has received funding from the Australian government and the Breakthrough Initiatives organization.
Scientists are excited, especially after a potentially habitable “hot Neptune” planet was found orbiting Alpha Centauri in February this year.