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Science 12 Oct 2016 Project Blue: Explor ...

Project Blue: Exploration for a new Earth

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Oct 12, 2016, 5:00 pm IST
Updated Oct 12, 2016, 5:02 pm IST
A group of scientists have come together to detect and identify Earth-like planets in other star systems in space
Exoplanets have been an important part of the solar system discussions for a long time. The idea of a different “Earth” is a wishful phenomenon that has been the subject of astronomers for decades.
 Exoplanets have been an important part of the solar system discussions for a long time. The idea of a different “Earth” is a wishful phenomenon that has been the subject of astronomers for decades.

Exoplanets have been an important part of the solar system discussions for a long time. The idea of a different “Earth” is a wishful phenomenon that has been the subject of astronomers for decades. But now there is a reality with a private effort also known as Project Blue. This hopes to change the unknown and have built a satellite for a specific purpose — to directly capture images of exoplanet in the Alpha Centauri system.

Former NASA program director and project leader Jon Morse stated, “There’s this confluence of scientific imperative with the exoplanet discoveries from Kepler, and the whole community being energized.” He further said, “It’s plausible that there are Earth-like planets in similar orbits around the two sun-stars in the Alpha Centauri system — and we’re going to find out.”

 

Jon Morse and his colleagues had started the BoldlyGo Institute, a private space research firm. They are working on a projects but Project Blue is collaboration with Alpha Centauri-focused non-profit firm Mission Centaur.

There have been surveys of space programmed by Kepler and other missions which have revealed the presence of Earth-like Exoplanets, which according to studies is quite common. However, data have suggested the presence of a exoplanet orbiting a red dwarf called Proxima Centauri. Project Blue will focus on other sun-like stars, known as Alpha Centauri A and B.

But the procedure of detecting planets is a difficult process. But a recent advance in imaging technique called coronagraphy has made it possible to detect Exoplanets in space. The University of Massachusetts Lowell is one of the project’s partners; its scientists have been pushing the boundaries of interstellar coronagraphy. Armed with a general idea of the system and what kind of object they’re looking for, they can narrow the search considerably — essentially they can deduce where Earth would be if it was in Alpha Centauri.

Project Blue is still in its nascent phase and a lot of parameters have to be figured out. The cost for the project is $25 million — all inclusive. “We do need to find multiple backers from possible crowd-funding to high net-worth individuals. But we also want to use in-kind contributions from partners and perhaps from the government as a partner as well,” states Morse. The project looks ambitious, which is similar to any other space program. Project will release more updates in the upcoming year.

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