Alpha Centauri is one of the brightest sources in our sky and is easy to see with the naked eye when looking in the direction of the constellation Centaurus.
But can you imagine looking in that direction and know that someone or something is looking back at you? Scientists at the University of Sydney, in collaboration with Breakthrough Initiatives in California, Saber Astronautics in Australia and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, have decided to answer this question with the upcoming TOLIMAN (Telescope for Orbit Locus Interferometric Monitoring of our Astronomical Neighborhood) mission.
As the authors of the initiative explained, Toliman will be equipped with a new type of telescope using diffractive pupil technology. The technology will make it possible to accurately determine the chemical composition of one of the two exoplanets located in the Alpha Centauri system.
According to the employees of the University of Sydney, who, together with NASA, joined the project, an object similar to Earth is located in the habitable zone and most likely has water reserves.
From 2025, the telescope will monitor the area around all three stars in the system, 4.37 light-years from the Sun, to look for any signs of life. It is supposed to be a small and inexpensive solar-powered device that can be charged in space.
Astrophysicists guarantee high accuracy of observations, because instead of collecting light in a narrowly focused beam, Toliman creates a complex diffraction pattern, similar to a flower.
If the results of this TOLIMAN confirm the existence of one or more planets around the stars of the solar type Alpha Centauri, and studies of their atmospheres show the presence of organic molecules necessary for life, the results will be exceptional.
In other words, such nearby planets are places where humanity could take its first steps into interstellar space with the help of futuristic high-speed robotic probes.