Upgrade telescope VLT to search for exoplanets at alpha Centauri
The very large telescope (Very Large Telescope; VLT) — one of the largest ground-based optical telescopes. However, this is actually a complex of four identical telescopes with a mirror diameter of 8.2 meters and four subsidiary.
VLT can perform different range of tasks, which he did all the years of its existence. But soon he will have a new goal. The European southern Observatory (European Southern Observatory; ESO), which owns telescope, has signed an agreement with the authors of the Breakthrough, in which the VLT will be used to search for planets orbiting a star system of alpha Centauri.
Alpha Centauri is our nearest stellar system consisting presumably of three stars. We will remind, summer of last year, Proxima Centauri, which is located closer sisters to the Sun, has discovered an exoplanet, which is also located in the habitable zone of a star.
The planets that the telescope can detect around nearby stars, could be potential targets for the project Breakthrough Starshot. However, he still looks very controversial, but it begins to give an indirect fruits, because without the project, the VLT would not have to use to find exoplanets closest to us.
Moreover, the contract involves the allocation of funds for the modernization of one of the instruments of the telescope, called Visir. This spectrometer, operating in middle infrared range, and its present capacity is not enough for the new task. In turn, the upgrade Visir will give scientists the expertise and data that will be useful in the construction of the European extremely large telescope (European Extremely Large Telescope, E-ELT).
I should add that the VLT will begin the search for exoplanets at alpha Centauri in 2019.