Scientists Look For Life On Alpha Centauri

Scientists are searching for alien planets that may harbor life and have recently discovered Alpha Centauri, a gravitationally bounded system of stars that is four lightyears away and closely resembles our solar system.

The project aims to build a small telescope in space, named Toliman, that will be launched into earth’s orbit in two years and will be able to detect other planets by 2025.

Currently, no planets have been detected around Alpha Centauri, though scientists can use technology to scan the atmospheres for biosignatures created by extraterrestrial life.

Scientists have discovered more than 4,000 planets so far, mostly due to “lucky alignments”, according to Peter Tuthill, professor of astrophysics at the University of Sydney.

Scientists have discovered most of the planets with the Kepler telescope, but not Alpha Centauri. Thus, scientists are developing a new telescope that uses a specially etched mirror and creates a “diffractive pupil” effect. 

Two stars in the Alpha Centauri system orbit around each other at a distance of 20 times the distance between the sun and the earth.

The Toliman project is supported by Breakthrough Initiatives, a space exploration fund. It was proposed to explore Alpha Centauri with Breakthrough Starshot, which consists of thousands of tiny space probes launched at high speeds into space in 20 years.

Tuthill says that if people dream of interstellar travel one day, Alpha Centauri has to be their first stop on the way that way.

Toliman will detect a planet, but scientists will then need to figure out what the atmosphere is like and locate chemical biosignatures. Determining these things will also be difficult, but “observing the nearest and brightest planetary system will be the most useful.”