A space telescope with a single mission: Find habitable planets around Alpha Centauri

Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to our Sun. However, the efforts of scientists to detect extrasolar planets there have not yielded any concrete results to date. But a future space telescope specializing in this task should soon be launched …

The study of exoplanets has progressed exponentially in recent years, with 4,575 confirmed planets in 3,392 systems of the Milky Way. Recently, we even detected one in another galaxy. But, we have never been able to certify the presence of exoplanets within the system closest to ours, Alpha Centauri. In 2012, astronomers announced a possible detection, which later turned out to be false.

Image 1: A space telescope with a single mission: Find habitable planets around Alpha Centauri
Centaur Alpha System – Credit: ESO

Part of the problem with Alpha Centauri lies in the fact that it is a binary system. The two stars in close orbit do not allow to apply the most efficient methods of finding exoplanets. As the two stars transit regularly, there are regular drops in brightness due to the fact thatone star blocks the light of the other. It is therefore very difficult to detect the drops in brightness that could be caused by an exoplanet, by applying the transit method.

TOLIMAN: a space telescope dedicated to the study of Alpha Centauri

But a new mission is under development. It’s about télescope spatial TOLIMAN (for Telescope for Orbit Locus Interferometric Monitoring of our Astronomical Neighborhood). This will be dedicated to the search for rocky planets orbiting the living area of ​​Alpha Centauri. The project, which comes from the Arabic name of the system in question, is the result of a collaboration between Breakthrough Initiatives and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The TOLIMAN mission should be launched in 2023.

Eduardo Bendek, member of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory team, states: “Even for the closest bright stars in the night sky, finding planets is a huge technological challenge. Our TOLIMAN mission will launch a space telescope custom designed which will carry out extremely fine analyzes of the position of the star in the sky. If a planet is orbiting Alpha Centauri, it will change its shape by betraying a tiny, but measurable oscillation. »

Read also> Space: the Hubble telescope discovers an exoplanet in its second atmosphere

Credit : universetoday

Leave a Comment