Astronomers recently confirmed the discovery of an earth-sized world that orbits the Proxima centauri, about 4.25 light years away. Now, a team of ex-NASA scientists are jumping on this hope of a similar earth. These scientists are seeking out private funding to scour the Alpha Centauri for habitable planets. This opens up a wider discussion of privately funded science, and its power.
While the project seems wildly exciting, the biggest question remains: does the Proxima Centauri really have hospitable life? Or is it merely a hopeful gamble?
In theory, they harbor rocky world, similar to earth. Additionally, there is, allegedly, a rocky, habitable-zone planet at Proxima Centauri. However…it is around a red dwarf star. This adds another questions: could human life really survive around a red dwarf star? Scientists believe that by capturing photos of them, we may get important answers to these difficult questions.
Nonprofits in early October launched Project Blue to support this effort. They plan on building small, but powerful, space-based telescopes that are capable of photographing these potential worlds. It is a risky endeavor with no clear path to success – which is why NASA is not behind it.
Jon Morse left his job as head of NASA’s Astrophysics Division several years ago because, as quoted “[he wanted to] go out and try to do something really hard”. In this case, the ‘something really hard’ appears to be finding other potential real estate for humans in the galaxy. If all the funding comes in, his two-year mission should launch by the end of decade.
This photo comes from Flickr user Kevin Gill and is licensed under creative commons.