Very Large Telescope has been updated, and started looking for exoplanets in the alpha Centauri

One of the most powerful facilities for search and discovery of distant planets located in Chile, and it is known as the Very Large Telescope (VLT). It is a huge complex of four major and four additional optical telescopes, and for more than 20 years of its existence, was able to make razor-sharp photos of Jupiter and discover the many distant exoplanets. Now their search will be faster and more accurate because the telescope is equipped with a tool NEAR.

Previously to search for exoplanets has been used a spectrometer and imager for the mid-infrared (VISIR), but with the addition of a new instrument, the telescope has become more sensitive to wavelengths of infrared. The new tool will be aimed in the direction of clusters of stars of alpha Centauri in its habitable zone, where conventionally there may be planets with close to Earth-like conditions can support life.

The very Large Telescope looking for exoplanets

The accumulation of alpha Centauri has two similar to the Sun stars, which are called α Centauri A and α Centauri B. Despite the fact that they are located relatively close to our Solar system, astronomers about them and nearby planets very little is known. The fact that a possible extrasolar planets emit much less light than a normal star — researchers from the European southern Observatory ESO compare it with a search of the moth that circles around a lantern located at a distance of tens of kilometers.

Telescope VLT

The NEAR tool is a heat coronagraph, which blocks light from nearby stars and exoplanets captures the emitted infrared light. The apparatus is operated by scientists recently completed a ten-day cycle of observations, and the astronomers are studying the data collected.

NEAR is the first and (currently) the only project that can accurately portray the habitable exoplanet, announced Olivier Guyon, the lead scientist of the program to search for exoplanets.

Notably, by 2024 the world will see a telescope that size, even more than the VLT. The new facility will be called the Extremely large telescope (ELT), and will also be located in Chile. In 2018, was laid the Foundation of it — you can read about this in our material.

Telescope ELT in the representation of the artist

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