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Scientists are searching for life in our neighbor star system

Recently, the University of Sydney in Australia has signed a contract with EnduroSat, a major provider of micro-satellites and other space services, in order to explore the possibility of extraterrestrial life. The search will begin with our nearest neighbor star system, Alpha Centaury. 

The mission is called TOLIMAN after the star’s ancient Arabic name and is funded by the Breakthrough Initiatives, an organization in California searching for other habitable worlds in the universe. The experts will look for planets in the habitable zone around two Sun-like stars in the system (Alpha Centaury A and B), which are located only four light years away from Earth.

“That’s tantalizingly close to home. Astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets outside our own solar system but most are thousands of light years away and beyond our reach,” said mission leader Peter Tuthill, an astrophysicist at Sydney who helped develop the technology behind the groundbreaking James Webb Space Telescope. “Modern satellite technology will allow us to explore our celestial backyard and perhaps lay the groundwork for visionary future missions spanning the interstellar voids to the Centauri system.”

Since discovering exoplanets is a significant technological challenge, even for large telescopes, the experts are using state-of-the-art methods for developing a small space telescope capable of extremely fine measurements which needs to fit the telescope within a limited volume of 12 liters, while maintaining its mechanical and thermal stability with exquisite precision. To do this, they will use EnduroSat’s flight-proven MicroSat technology, which can download payload data at a speed of over 125 Mbps. If this mini-satellite will manage to discover any exoplanets in the Alpha Centaury, other instruments can be further employed to analyze their atmospheres and surface chemistry in order to search for signs of possible biospheres.

“We are exceptionally proud to partner in this mission. The challenges are enormous, and it will drive our engineering efforts to the extreme. The mission is a first-of-its-kind exploration science effort and will help open the doors for low-cost astronomy missions,” said Founder and CEO of EnduroSat Raycho Raychev.

“It’s very exciting to see this program come to life. With these partnerships, we can create a new kind of astronomical mission and make real progress on understanding the planetary systems right next door,” concluded Executive Director of Breakthrough Initiatives Pete Worden.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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