PLANETS Foundation Is Building New Telescope
Tom Spendlove posted on September 12, 2017 | 711 views

When Dr. Svetlana Berdyugina describes her search for exoplanets she describes herself as a planetary explorer. The PLANETS Foundation is a nonprofit team of engineers, astrophysicists, professors and entrepreneurs working to move space technology forward. One of their larger projects is the ExoLife Finder, a telescope to find life on Exoplanets. The group is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise awareness and funds for their ELF telescope.

ELF is designed to see exoplanets up to 120 trillion miles away, and detecting water, oxygen, methane and ozone on an exoplanet’s surface. A circular array of sixteen mirrors each five meters in diameter, the system is expected to be able to see 25 light years from Earth. The design uses principles of tensegrity to support the mass and weight of the telescope, and the mirrors are use an off-axis design to reduce scattered light. Electroactive polymers are 3D printed into the mirrors to allow accurate adjustments during operation.

ELF will be the second phase of the PLANETS Foundation’s mission, with the first PLANETS Telescope currently in construction on Haleakala on Maui. The proposed site of the ELF Telescope is the Atacama Desert in Chile, no date is currently planned for the ELF’s first day of operation. Total construction costs for ELF are $130million and construction time is expected to be 60 months.

The PLANETS Foundation continues to publish research and gain positive exposure in the fields of optics, thermodynamics and general space exploration. It’s great to see so many industrial and educational partners working with the foundation to develop these technologies and search for life in the exoplanets. This current Kickstarter campaign will end on October 8, 2017.

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