Reminder: WISE launches in three days, and another search for planets around Alpha Centauri

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Two links to share on a subject recently written about here. The first one is a simple reminder that the WISE telescope will be launched in three days, a telescope that is particularly exciting because of the large number of asteroids it will discover (many of these may be suitable destinations for a manned mission if a close flyby of the Earth will occur in the near future), and especially for its ability to discover one or more brown dwarfs within close proximity of our Solar System, because it's possible that one may exist at a relatively close distance of one light year or so, which is just barely at the limit at which we would be able to send a probe within a few decades. Theoretical missions to a destination like Alpha Centauri or Barnard's Star are usually projected to take 50 or 70 years or so, and even that is through using some pretty impressive propulsive technologies that would result in a maximum velocity a tenth of the speed of light.

The other piece of news is in addition to this one about a search being carried out by an observatory in New Zealand of the Alpha Centauri system for (relatively) small planets - Daily Galaxy has an article today on a planet-hunting team that is using a telescope in Chile to keep an eye on Alpha Centauri B over the next three years in order to accomplish the same thing. I believe I read about a third going on at the moment as well, but don't remember where that one was taking place. In any case, it's a safe bet that we'll know within the next few years what sort of planets there are to be found there.

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