Space & Astronomy
Massive new space telescope planned
By T.K. Randall
June 22, 2014 · 25 comments
The telescope will provide an unprecedented view of the cosmos. Image Credit: NASA / Hubble
The successor to the Hubble Space Telescope will be able to observe extrasolar planets like never before.
Known as ATLAST ( Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope ), the telescope will be so large that it will be necessary to ferry its components in to space where astronauts will construct it in orbit at a distance of 1.5 million kilometers from the Earth - four times further away than the Moon.
The telescope's primary mission will be to seek out signs of life on other worlds by looking for certain biosignatures (such as oxygen, methane etc. ) in the atmospheres of extrasolar planets.
"This telescope could see Earth-like planets around stars up to 30 light years away," said astrophysics professor Martin Barstow. "There are tens of thousands of stars within that distance and we estimate that at least a few thousand of those will be similar to the sun. Our guess is that we could find around 60 such planets."
The ambitious project will however require backing on a global scale.
"NASA will have to take the lead as it is the biggest space agency, but it is already in discussion with the European Space Agency," said Prof Barstow. "We are looking at a launch date around 2030 because that is how long these projects take."
Source: The Australian
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