NOV 09, 2016 8:31 AM PST

Project Blue: An Initiative to Photograph an Earth-like Exoplanet

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

The closest star system to Earth’s own is the Alpha Centauri system, which is just over four light years away. Astronomers believe there may be an Earth-like exoplanet there, and as you can imagine, they’re excited to find out whether or not it might support life forms.
 
Unfortunately, four light years is still quite far away, and our space observation equipment can only distinguish fuzzy blobs and flickering light, which have made it possible for astronomers to say the exoplanet was there in the first place.
 
We have no crisp pictures of the exoplanet just yet, so it’s hard to say for sure exactly what kind of exoplanet it is, what it looks like, and whether or not it can support life. On the other hand, a new project being called Project Blue aims to break this barrier by taking an actual photograph of said exoplanet.
 

An impression of Project Blue, a new type of telescope initiative pointed at photographing an exoplanet.

 Image Credit: Project Blue

“The mission aims to launch a lightweight space telescope to directly image exoplanets around Earth’s nearest star system, Alpha Centauri A and B. With a budget the fraction of the cost of a mid-size astrophysics mission, and a planned launch by the end of the decade, this venture represents an ambitious leap forward in low-cost, high-impact space exploration, “the Project Blue webpage reads.
 
“Through active collaboration between research institutions, universities, private industry and citizens, Project Blue seeks to make space exploration a participatory, collective endeavor and inspire millions worldwide to engage in scientific inquiry.”
 
Among the things we are most interested in learning is what kind of atmospheric composition this system’s exoplanet(s) may have, and whether or not they contain any liquid water like the Earth. Astronomers will be focusing on the habitable zone surrounding the stars in the hopes that we might find something worthwhile there.
 
Because the system has two Sun-like stars, it offers astronomers two separate chances to search for and photograph exoplanets in the system with Project Blue.
 
Obviously, the private initiative has a limited budget, so they have their work cut out for them. The hope is to create a new kind of lightweight telescope craft that can be launched into space to orbit the Earth as soon as 2019 and grab its picture in the years following.
 
There is surely a lot of speculation around whether or not the project will be successful in capturing a clear photograph of another world from outside of our own solar system. On the other hand, if it’s successful, it would be the first time we’ve ever done it successfully.

Below, a video shows a possible render of the Project Blue telescope:
 


Source: Project Blue via Space.com

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
OCT 07, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Discovery of Phosphine on Venus - What Does It Mean?
OCT 07, 2020
Discovery of Phosphine on Venus - What Does It Mean?
A Nature Astronomy paper in September, titled "Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus", has led t ...
OCT 10, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Are There Planets Better for Life than Earth?
OCT 10, 2020
Are There Planets Better for Life than Earth?
Researchers have found at least 24 planets outside of our solar system may be better for life than Earth. Each a little ...
NOV 20, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The Passing of a Neutrino Hunting Pioneer
NOV 20, 2020
The Passing of a Neutrino Hunting Pioneer
Masatoshi Koshiba, a revered Japanese physicist known for his groundbreaking work on cosmic neutrino detection, passed a ...
JAN 06, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Settling the Debate Over the Age of the Universe
JAN 06, 2021
Settling the Debate Over the Age of the Universe
Astronomers have used powerful telescopes high in the Atacama desert to evaluate estimates of the age of the universe. T ...
JAN 24, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
ALMA observations give insight into the formation of stars
JAN 24, 2021
ALMA observations give insight into the formation of stars
New research published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics gives new insight into the mystery behind how stars f ...
FEB 17, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Where Did the Comet (or Asteroid) That Killed the Dinosaurs Originate?
FEB 17, 2021
Where Did the Comet (or Asteroid) That Killed the Dinosaurs Originate?
The Chicxulub impactor is thought to have crashed into Earth around 66 million years ago near the Mexican coast. The cra ...
Loading Comments...