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NASA begins search for alien habitable worlds

Researchers plan to create a state-of-the-art space telescope as part of the Habitable Worlds Observatory project.

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There are at least 10 years left before the creation of the so-called “Observatory of Habitable Worlds,” but NASA is not sitting idle and has already begun to develop the necessary basic technology. We are talking about a state-of-the-art space telescope needed to search for alien worlds similar to Earth, reports Science Alert.

It is known that contracts were awarded to three companies to research next-generation optics, mission designs and telescope functions. In total, the budget was $17.5 million, and work is planned to begin by the end of this summer.

The Habitable Worlds Observatory (HWO) is a mission to launch a large space telescope whose primary purpose will be to directly image Earth-like planets around stars like our Sun. It is expected that the telescope will also be able to study the atmosphere of planets for chemical signs of life.

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At the moment, the mission is in the early stages of planning, and working groups are just exploring scientific goals and ways to achieve them. Previous research focusing on existing exoplanets has shown that potentially one in five stars has an Earth-like planet in orbit.

The entire mission of searching for life in the Universe as a whole is based on the fact that this life will be somewhat similar to ours. However, it is likely that there is life in the Universe that is based on a completely different chemistry. Still, if we want to find alien life, we should start our search with something that might be similar to ours.

As a result, HWO mission scientists will focus on searching for chemicals such as oxygen and methane, as well as other signs that hint at the presence of life on other planets. As a result, at the beginning of 2024, NASA announced that it was looking for and stimulating projects that deal with the necessary technologies.

For example, to bring the ambitious plan to life, a coronagraph thousands of times more capable than what exists today will be required. In addition, care must be taken to block light from the parent star, and an optical system must be developed that can remain stationary to within the width of an atom.

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As a result, NASA selected three proposals and awarded them two-year, fixed-price contracts worth $17.5 million. This figure sounds impressive, but by comparison, it took $16 billion to develop and launch Hubble.

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Zoe Mitchell

Zoe Mitchell is an independent researcher and writer specializing in extraordinary topics. With a degree in journalism, she delves into the mysteries that lie beyond the surface of our reality.