Alpha Centauri

The elevation of Donald Trump to the Oval Office may give NASA the boost it needs to head back to the stars, but other astronomy projects still have to find novel ways to get the funding they need to keep their stellar dreams alive.

One such initiative is Project Blue, which looks to directly image planets around the double suns of Alpha Centauri.

The project team hopes to raise at least $1 million through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter by December 21, 2016, to lay the technical groundwork for the project, representatives said in a statement.

According to Space.com, the initiative would launch a small space telescope designed specifically to look at Alpha Centauri, which, along with Proxima Centauri, is the nearest stellar neighbour to Earth's solar system.

Because of the star system's closeness, that small telescope would be able to take a "pale blue dot" image of any potentially Earthlike planets orbiting there — a photo of a small blue speck like the one the Voyager spacecraft 1 took of Earth from afar. A blue hue would indicate potential oceans or atmosphere surrounding the planet.

Project Blue
Kickstarter

The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute and the University of Massachusetts Lowell have already signed on to collaborate on the project.

The entire mission would cost between $10 million and $50 million, Jon Morse, mission executive for Project Blue told Space.com when the project was announced in October.

The project's first $1 million raised will go to "crucial analysis, design and simulations that form the foundation of the mission," the Kickstarter page reads.

If more money is raised, the researchers also have stretch goals: $2 million will allow them to test the coronagraph that lets the telescope spot planets around the bright glare of Alpha Centauri's stars, and $4 million will let them finish the telescope's design, start building components and incorporate interested students and universities into the building process.

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