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NASA's upcoming alien-hunting telescope could find Earth 2.0 by 2050

By T.K. Randall
July 3, 2024 · Comment icon 2 comments
An extrasolar planet orbiting a distant star.
Is there anyone out there ? Image Credit: NASA / Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)
A proposed new telescope - the Habitable Worlds Observatory - could make finding alien life a reality.
The James Webb Space Telescope, which launched back in 2021 after 25 years of development, currently provides astronomers with the clearest view of the cosmos yet, but even with this, confirming the presence of extraterrestrial life on a distant extrasolar planet is an extremely challenging prospect.

The James Webb's successor, however, might just be up to the task.

Known as the Habitable Worlds Observatory (HWO), this proposed next-generation telescope will be specifically designed to observe extrasolar worlds and look for signs of aliens.

Building upon everything we've learned to date, it will be capable of searching for the various biosignatures and technosignatures likely to indicate the presence of extraterrestrial life.

Examples include the various gases produced by living organisms, the infra-red heat produced by vegetation and the telltale signs of large, artificially built structures out in space.
"I believe, in our lifetime, something like HWO will see a signal in the atmosphere of a rocky planet in the habitable zone of a star like our sun that we think is life," Dr Jessie Christiansen, chief scientist for NASA's Exoplanet Science Institute at CalTech, told New Scientist.

"A big part of my job is working on that. We're coming up with science questions that we would want that telescope to answer."

"We use that to define how big of a telescope, looking at what part of space, for how long, do we need? We take that to NASA and say, 'Hey, build this.'"

Suffice to say, the HWO is still very much in the early concept and planning stages and the telescope itself is unlikely to launch until at least 2040.

If it does find a habitable alien world, however, it will certainly have been worth the wait.

Source: Mail Online | Comments (2)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Ell 9 days ago
I expect to be long dead by then. Maybe it can photograph my ashes?
Comment icon #2 Posted by Black Red Devil 8 days ago
26 years from now! Hmm, it's going to be tough, I might have to put in a new reconditioned engine.

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