ESO Very Large Telescope upgrade will search Alpha Centauri for planets

Brittany A. Roston - Jan 10, 2017
ESO Very Large Telescope upgrade will search Alpha Centauri for planets

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) will soon search Alpha Centauri for planets thanks to an upgrade that’ll be funded via a Breakthrough Initiatives agreement. The ESO announced the new agreement on Monday, saying the funds will be used to upgrade the Very Large Telescope’s VLT Imager and Spectrometer for mid-Infrared tool. The ultimate purpose of this upgrade is using the VLT to search for habitable planets.

Potentially habitable planets are difficult to detect due to their dim nature compared to their host star, which generally takes the most attention. By modifying the aforementioned tool, more commonly called the VISIR, the Very Large Telescope will be better suited to detecting these dim planets by looking in the mid-infrared wavelength range.

According to the ESO, detecting the planets using this wavelength range is still tricky, and so the agreement with Breakthrough Initiatives will pay ‘a large fraction’ of the cost to modify — essentially upgrade – the tool with technologies that improve its detection abilities.

The University of Liege and Uppsala University will work together to create a new coronagraph for the VLT, while Kampf Telescope Optics will make some new hardware like a ‘novel detector calibration device’ and an instrument module through which the wavefront sensor will be hosted.

SOURCE: European Southern Observatory

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