Breakthrough Initiatives announced the start of development of a new spacecraft, TOLIMAN, which will be equipped with a new type of telescope using diffractive pupil technology.
It is expected that the device will detect new exoplanets in the stars closest to the Sun, including in the Alpha Centauri system.
The closest star to the Sun is the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, part of the triple star system Alpha Centauri and located at a distance of 4.2 light years from our star.
Proxima Centauri possesses at least two exoplanets, one of which is Earth-like and is located in the habitable zone, where liquid water can exist on the planet's surface.
Despite its proximity to Earth, the Alpha Centauri system is still poorly understood and is an extremely interesting target for astronomers dealing with exoplanetary systems.
Now, The Breakthrough Initiatives project announced the start of development of a new spacecraft TOLIMAN (Telescope for Orbit Locus Interferometric Monitoring of our Astronomical Neighborhood)
The telescope is designed to search for new planets in the Alpha Centauri system and other stars within 33 light years from the Sun.
The name of the project is given in honor of the ancient Arabic designation of Alpha Centauri.
Preliminary work on TOLIMAN began in April this year, in addition to Breakthrough Initiatives, researchers from the University of Sydney, the Australian company Saber Astronautics and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are participating in it.
The telescope is expected to be ready by the mid-2020s. It is envisioned to be a small and inexpensive solar-powered device.
TOLIMAN will engage in high-precision astrometric observations of stars, recording the slightest fluctuations in their position in the sky, which indicate the presence of an exoplanet.
It will be equipped with a new type of mirror telescope that uses diffractive pupil technology.
Instead of collecting light from a star into a narrowly focused beam, as is usually done, TOLIMAN will create a complex diffraction pattern, similar to a flower.
This will greatly increase the accuracy of the observations.
- Space.com: https://www.space.com/alpha-centauri-habitable-planets-space-telescope-toliman
Breakthrough Initiative: https://breakthroughinitiatives.org/news/34