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Taliman; A dedicated telescope to discover Earth-like planets in the Alpha Centauri system

Are there any habitable planets in the nearest star system to Earth, Alpha Centauri? Scientists have been trying to answer this question for years, but have not yet been able to overcome the brightness of two solar stars like this one, Alpha Centauri A and B. The purpose of this search is to discover the signs of the planets around these stars. The third star in this star system is the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, which has been proven to be one of its planets.

The discovery of the planets of the Alpha Centauri system will have many scientific benefits. The system is only four light-years from Earth, which is like a fraction of a second at cosmic distances. Each planet is worth exploring, but Earth-like planets have the highest priority. Now a group of scientists are looking for such planets with their private telescopes. According to Oliver Guyon of the University of Arizona and part of the telescope team:

We have a unique opportunity to discover the existence of a habitable planet in this system. This is unprecedented.

The relatively low-cost Taliman Telescope will continue to be developed with more than $ 500,000 invested by the Australian Government. The telescope’s team leader is Peter Tuttle of the University of Sydney, who and his colleagues presented the Taliman design for the first time in several years. The telescope, previously backed by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Australia’s Saber Astronautics space engineering organization and the California Breakthrough Initiatives program, was built with billion-dollar investment from Yuri Milner.

The Taliman Telescope is about the size of a shoebox, designed for one purpose only: to search for planets within the life belt of the Alpha Centauri system. The belt of life is the area where liquid water will last on the rocky surface of the planet. The telescope is scheduled to orbit the Earth in 2023. According to Sarah Seiger of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the planet hunters who is not involved in this research:

The news of the telescope launch will be great. It’s amazing that private companies are accelerating our search for more land.

Simulated view of the Taliman Telescope from the Alpha Centauri dual star system

Many attempts have been made to find the planets Alpha Centauri, which have been associated with varying degrees of success. For example, in 2012, scientists thought that a planet called Alpha Centauri Bb was in orbit around Alpha Centauri B They discovered, but other researchers in 2015 denied the existence of the planet. Proxima Centauri’s studies were more successful and showed a possible Earth-sized world called Proxima b There is in the orbit of this star, while signs from other planets called Proxima c were also found. This year, possible Neptune-sized planets in the orbit of Centaurus A were explored.

Taliman is the ancient Arabic name for Alpha Centauri, also known as the “Interferometer Telescope for Geometric Orbital Location in the Astronomical Neighborhood”, designed to hunt the planets around Alpha Centauri A and B. Part of this telescope is under construction. On the other hand, the precursor of this mission called Toliboy was launched to the International Space Station this year to test the technology on CUAVA-1 satellite. Laboratory testing and simulation work are also underway at the University of Sydney. According to Tutil, the team is working on a complete prototype of the telescope. Although some aspects of the mission, such as guiding the rocket into space and its station in Earth orbit, need to be addressed, the telescope’s overall technology is ready.

The main feature of the Taliman Telescope is the focus on the dual nature of Alpha Centauri A and B to study possible planets in their life belt. The distance between the two stars is equal to the distance between Uranus and the Sun. The Taliman Telescope uses a technology called refractive pupil to study stars; Instead of capturing high-quality images of stars, the 12-centimeter telescope splits starlight into thousands of pixels, creating a patterned image that creates a photonic effect of each star’s spatial position in the night sky.

Scientists hope to use the data to observe small stellar transitions created by the gravitational pull of planets. This is called astronomical measurement, which is very easy to use with two stars and allows you to accurately measure the distance between two stars. According to Tutil:

Alpha Centauri is an easy target for this technique. It ‘s almost like a world set right for this mission.

Two years of thallium astronomical observations allow researchers to assess the presence or absence of planets in the biostars of Alpha Centauri A and B; But the highest power of astronomy is its ability to accurately measure the mass of new planets through its gravitational pull on stars. Most planetary detection methods are based on estimates of mass only and do not provide a precise distinction between gaseous planets such as mini-Neptunes or Earth-like planets.

However, thallium is not without its drawbacks. For example, this telescope does not show which star the possible planet is in orbit; But it can accurately detect Earth-like and habitable planets in these systems. According to Tutil:

With Taliman we can say that the planet is in the belt of life or the mass of the earth. Discovering such a planet will be like discovering gold, and researchers will pursue more complex missions.

Taliman’s mission will be to advance two fascinating advances in extrasolar planet science. The first development is the use of private capital instead of relying on space agencies and other government agencies to conduct extraterrestrial scientific research, which may not lead to any successful results. According to Guyon:

It is difficult to find a private investor for such high-risk missions, as no planets may be found in the Alpha Centauri system. However, the potential for rewards is high. If anything, we know that the system closest to us is probably the host of habitable planets; And in this way, the program of many organizations will change.

The project is also a sign of further efforts, including the search for thousands of extrasolar planets from the past two decades to the study of highly detailed stellar systems. Emily Rickman of the Baltimore Space Telescope Institute of Science says the Taliman Telescope technology is exciting given the proximity of stars to Earth. He says:

Finding extraterrestrial life in an extrasolar world can be a huge achievement. There may also be very small planets close to the star that we cannot see, or maybe nothing at all around the star. In any case, a valuable result is obtained.

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“After studying Alpha Centauri, there are secondary targets for thallium,” says Tutil. But none of these stars are close enough to provide enough accuracy, and heavier, less habitable worlds may be present. “We hope to finally be able to discover planets like Earth or Neptune in terms of mass,” Tuttle said.

Alpha Centauri is currently the main target. Over the next few years, one or more habitable habitable worlds with Earth may be discovered around these stars. As a result, not only do we have to study them with a telescope, we also have to send robotic probes to study them. A plan for such trips is currently underway, including the Breakthrough StarShot project of the Breakthrough Initirative sister project, which aims to send small probes at one-tenth the speed of light to Alpha Centauri. Taliman can provide key data to reinforce this multi-year mission. According to Peter Warden:

We know that there is at least one planet in this system called Proxima b. If we conclude that Alpha Centauri A and B do not have habitable planets, we can focus on Proxima. If everything goes according to plan, it will not take long for us to reach a result.


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