Scientists have uncovered a new technology that could take searching the vast reaches of space for extraterrestrial life a speedier process. It’s called nulling interferometry, and it will give the world’s largest telescopes more power than even the Hubble in being able to see other planets similar to Earth.
This technology works by stringing together light captured by many telescopes in order to make a “super telescope.” How “super” is this thing? Well, it could see a quarter lying on the surface on the moon, for starters. Wow!
In the Atacama Desert in Chile, a bunch of telescopes are getting a nulling device called PRIMA put on them right now. PRIMA involves a bunch of mirrors moved by pistons by degrees that are smaller than an atom. The light is reflected into tunnels underground that would make it so any lightwaves from a star are no longer detectable. Then, all you can see is the light emitted from a planet that orbits a star, i.e., a planet like ours. This system will be up and running within six months.
[via Wired Science]