Project Blue is a spirited new scientific endeavor whose lofty aim is to gather enough funds to deploy a compact, planet-seeking telescope to search for orbiting bodies around the twin-sun system of Alpha Centauri, one of Earth's nearest stellar neighbors, a mere 4.3 light-years away. Their ambitious goals are to launch this imaging device to hunt down planetary targets and capture a "pale blue dot" image of a potentially habitable home located in the dual stars' glare. With The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute and the University of Massachusetts Lowell already signed up to assist on the project, the founding board's goals of collecting $1 million by Dec. 21, 2016, seem completely reachable. Their Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign is already off to a roaring start, with 676 backers with 29 days to go.
"We're at an incredible moment in history, where for the first time, we have the technology to actually find another Earth," said Jon Morse, mission executive for Project Blue. "Just as exciting — thanks to the power of crowdfunding — we can open this mission to everyone. With the Project Blue consortium, which is still growing, we'll bring together the technical experts who can build and launch this telescope. Now we want to bring along everyone else as well. This is a new kind of space initiative — to achieve cutting-edge science for low cost in just a few years — and it empowers us all to participate in this moment of human discovery."
With Alpha Centauri's relatively close proximity, a smaller telescope the size of a small washing machine would be able to observe the exoplanets directly, giving it an advantage over deep sky observation platforms like NASA's Kepler Space Telescope. Money for the first stage of the project wil be applied toward analysis, design and simulations that form the foundation of their mission, with plans to eventually launch the telescope into space for two years, between the years 2019 and 2022. Should higher funding goals of $2 million and $4 million be reached, the team will be able to test out the coronagraph that allows the telescope to find speck planets obscurred by Alpha Centauri's stars, complete Project Blue's telescope design, initiate component building, and also attract interested science students and university departments by absorbing them into the mission's fold.
Have a peek at Project Blue's Kickstarter campaign video below and tell us if you believe this to be a worthy cause for the benefit of all Mankind by photographing orbiting habitable Earth-like exoplanets in the Alpha Centauri zip code.