Space

Scientists Upgrading Very Large Telescope To Search For Exoplanets

The telescope will search our sun's closest neighbors in the Alpha Centauri system.

Scientists Upgrading Very Large Telescope To Search For Exoplanets
European Southern Observatory / Yuri Beletsky / CC BY 4.0
SMS

Scientists at the European Southern Observatory are upgrading their Very Large Telescope in hopes of getting a better look at the sun's nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri.

The upgrade is funded by Breakthrough Initiatives — a group of scientific programs seeking evidence of life beyond our planet. 

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Right now, it's difficult for the telescope to detect planets because of how bright the two main stars of the Alpha Centauri system are. The changes to the Very Large Telescope should dim that light.

Last summer, scientists found a planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri, so we know there are planets in the Alpha Centauri system.

But the Very Large Telescope won't be strong enough to look beyond Alpha Centauri for planets, so the observatory is building an Extremely Large Telescope to handle that job.