Project Blue Kickstarter Hopes to Find Another Earth

Friday, 25 November 2016 - 1:09PM
Astronomy
Friday, 25 November 2016 - 1:09PM
Project Blue Kickstarter Hopes to Find Another Earth
We all know about 'The Pale Blue Dot' - a picture of our ocean-covered home planet from far, far away. But what if there were another pale blue dot out there somewhere in a distant solar system?



Project Blue is looking for just that - another water-covered planet in Alpha Centauri, the nearest Sun-like star system to Earth. Project Blue launched a campaign on Kickstarter in an effort to raise money for a telescope that could take the first picture of the Earth-like planets orbiting just one star system over. The telescope would be inexpensive, lightweight, and would focus on Alpha Centauri A and B. 

The project consists of a group of space and research organizations hoping to take a picture of any and all observable planets, in the hopes of finding one that is habitable. They've even put all their plans in a handy infographic to easily inform potential donors. 

Opening quote
"We're at an incredible moment in history, where for the first time, we have the technology to actually find another Earth," Jon Morse, mission executive for Project Blue, said in a statement (via Space.com).
Closing quote


Morse and the rest of the nonprofit Mission Centaur, who are running the project, hope that the six-week panhandle on Kickstarter will net them at least $1 million - enough to pick up the work that researchers at NASA started but couldn't get funding to support. The group ultimately expects the mission to cost between $25 million and $50 million to get into orbit around Earth. Once in orbit, the two-year mission would really take off.

At roughly the size of a modest washing machine, Project Blue would be a pretty minuscule space telescope. But that small surface area is all it needs; it's focused on one part of the sky and uses minimal electronics. Amongst other crucial technologies, Project Blue boasts a miniaturized version of a coronagraph, a complex instrument that can block the star's blinding light and can reveal planets that would otherwise be hidden in the glare. In order to cancel out any of the optical imperfections, the project is equipped with a 'deformable' mirror, which is an array of 1,000 ultra-tiny, perfect mirrors that can be programmed to move within microscopic precision. 

If all goes according to plan, Project Blue will take thousands of pictures of the star system in three colors, merge the giant pile of images, and (hopefully) discern a pale blue dot out of millions and millions of pixels. Mission Centaur is hopeful that this could launch a new era of planet-hunting telescopes, and Bill Diamond, president and CEO of SETI is hopeful that this will lead us to extraterrestrial life.

Opening quote
"Finding Earth Proxima would be a transformative event in the history of mankind," Diamond says in the above documentary. "I would love to think that this is something that helps bring us together. It's a very unifying thing."
Closing quote
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