Alpha Centauri
Alpha Centauri group, the closest star system to the solar system.ESA/NASA

For decades Alpha Centauri has hung in the night sky, tantalizingly close, and full of promise. Now, researchers from Project Blue are planning a mission to explore the Alpha Centauri system and hunt for Earth-like planets.

The mission will launch a small telescope to detect and capture images of Earth-like planets in the star system, a mere 4.37 light years away from Earth.

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Project Blue's is not the only mission being planned, Breakthrough Initiative, a private organisation, will also hunt for Earth-like planets in the Alpha Centauri star system.

On January 9, 2017, it officially announced that it would begin its search for planets orbiting Alpha Centauri, and has even enlisted the help of a massive telescope in Chile, reported.

Financed by Yuri Milner, the Breakthrough Initiative's program was founded in 2015 and aimed at discovering alien life. The program, titled, Breakthrough Starshot, will send a group of probes at around 20% of lightspeed to our closest star system.

Breakthrough Starshot's probes will analyse the star using infrared imaging through ground-based telescopes instead of using visible-light imaging. Very little is currently known about Alpha Centauri system.

The Breakthrough Starshot will team up with the European Space Observatory (ESO) and the Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Project Blue, on the other hand, will launch a washing-machine-sized telescope into low-Earth orbit and use visible light imaging to get direct photos of the Alpha Centauri system.

Both project hope to learn more about the system and any exoplanets that may exist in it. Alpha Centauri has long been mooted as the first extra-solar stop for human migration, due to its proximito to our own solar system.

With current technology it would take an object millennia to reach the Alpha Centauri system, but with advances in nuclear pulse jets and the development of light sail technology (as planned by Breakthrough Starshot) that time could be reduced to just decades.