Author Topic: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system  (Read 10478 times)

Offline Star One

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They seem to think this can be done on a relatively modest budget.

Quote
While the project is led by the BoldlyGo Institute and another private organisation, Mission Centaur, which has drawn up plans for the half-metre-wide space telescope, Morse hopes to bring in other partners from academia and national space agencies. The mission is expected to cost less than $50m (£40m).

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/oct/11/ambitious-mission-to-capture-first-picture-of-earth-like-planet-launched-alpha-centauri-project-blue

http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/10/project-blue-aims-to-find-a-pale-blue-dot-around-alpha-centauri/
« Last Edit: 10/11/2016 09:56 AM by Star One »

Offline as58

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Offline Star One

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Website is live: http://www.projectblue.org

What's your view on this, is it a feasible prospect?

Offline redliox

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Just heard about this minutes ago!  I will say the name complements Pale Red Dot, as is the idea of finding out if Proxima's stellar siblings also are planet endowed.  Reading into it further before I make any judgments or comments, but it has my attention.
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Offline redliox

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I've read through enough material to think it's ambitious but not impossible.  I seem to recall Europe employing smaller satellites in LEO to do essentially the same task 'Blue wants to do for studying and imaging exoplanets. 

The major specific I recall is that they want to build a telescope sized like a fridge with a mirror 45-50 centimeters across.  On top of that, they did specify it would be imaging in the visible light.  While daunting, the one plus I can see with them going visible rather than infrared (or ultraviolet as another example) is design simplicity: no chilling or specialty mirrors and materials.  It's going to be in LEO, but considering other telescopes likewise work from it no showstopper either.

I suppose the question is, with essentially unlimited viewing time (the advantage of a private 'scope versus Hubble or Webb) and apparently a handful of 21st-Century tricks, can a telescope only half-a-meter wide indeed image something around either Alpha Centauri A and B?
"Let the trails lead where they may, I will follow."
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Offline as58

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Website is live: http://www.projectblue.org

What's your view on this, is it a feasible prospect?

I'm not exactly an expert on this and there's very little info available, so I don't know. The schedule and budget goals seem pretty ambitious. I'm also not sure if I see the point in doing this. We don't even know if there's a planet to be seen, so spending a lot of money is risky. And why not wait for WFIRST in mid 2020s? I would think that anything that a 50 cm telescope can detect should be easy for WFIRST coronagraph (in not a huge amount of observing time). Or does the closeish angular distance between A and B mean you need a more specialised instrument?
« Last Edit: 10/11/2016 01:02 PM by as58 »

Offline redliox

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I'm not exactly an expert on this and there's very little info available, so I don't know. The schedule and budget goals seem pretty ambitious.

Ambitious indeed, so agreed.

I'm also not sure if I see the point in doing this. We don't even know if there's a planet to be seen, so spending a lot of money is risky. And why not wait for WFIRST in mid 2020s?

The point is we're talking about THE NEAREST STAR(S) AND LIKELY FIRST TO BE VISITED BY HUMANITY.  Aside from future generational plans ect ect, the triplet of Alpha Centauri is the best chance to study exoplanets in decent detail even by telescopes alone, not to mention a curious case of being sun-like (mature stars as old as our sun, metal rich) yet distinct (binary setup, lack of gas giants, multiple star types).  It's not some distant point, this is our next-door neighbor.

Also, we now know tiny Proxima has a planet...more astonishingly one in a habitable zone despite being a puny red dwarf.  Also, since we know being binary is not an obstacle to exoplanet formation (thanks to Kepler's data), it implies the chances are GOOD Proxima's bigger siblings have a court of their own worlds IF we LOOK; and the biggest problem is NO ONE HAS THE TIME TO LOOK...which leads to the next topic...

Why not wait for WFIRST (or likewise JWST)?  Simple: time.  There's the obvious fact neither will be online for several years; however the bigger factor is you won't get much time to use them.  Astronomers nearly have to fight each other gladiatorial-style to gain access to something like Hubble or Kepler.  Every astronomer KNOWS Alpha Centauri is our nearest star...but many don't care to study it as they have other projects.  In Hitchhiker terms, the Vogons manage the Hubble...and you better start signing those forms in triplicate with a wait-time of 40 Venusian years in the bottom office at Proxima b. 

I would think that anything that a 50 cm telescope can detect should be easy for WFIRST coronagraph. Or does the the closeish angular distance between A and B mean you need a more specialised instrument?

Although I'm far from a qualified astronomer, I know one trick exoplanet searches use when they don't have a Hubble to spare is to get longer exposures of a star...or rather of the diminutive planets circling.  Coupled with something like a coronagraph or other modern ways to tweak light (even digitally), you can obtain sufficient light to image an exoplanet despite lacking a megolithic-telescope (either in space or on the groung).  This proposed telescope, despite being roughly a half-meter, is only going to stare at Alpha Centauri...for hours and hours on end compared to the handful of minutes an average Hubble astronomer may be granted.  It's a cheap way to get the attention a specific target like Alpha Centauri requires.
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Offline redliox

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Youtube video related to Project Blue:
"Let the trails lead where they may, I will follow."
-Tigatron

Offline Star One

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I thought the problem regarding the existence of planets around the Alpha Centauri binary was how close they got at the closest point in their orbits, which is equivalent to the distance of Jupiter from our Sun.

Offline as58

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I thought the problem regarding the existence of planets around the Alpha Centauri binary was how close they got at the closest point in their orbits, which is equivalent to the distance of Jupiter from our Sun.

There's been a fair amount of research on this. https://arxiv.org/abs/1604.04917 is one recent paper concerning the stability of planets in Alpha Centauri system. tl;dr: stable orbits even on Gyr time scales in the habitable zone are possible.

Offline redliox

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #10 on: 10/12/2016 12:04 AM »
I thought the problem regarding the existence of planets around the Alpha Centauri binary was how close they got at the closest point in their orbits, which is equivalent to the distance of Jupiter from our Sun.

The distance is actually more like Saturn's with a closest approach of 11.2 AU and a max of 35.6 AU according to Wikipedia.  There have been a handful of studies about planet formation around the system's main pair and, basically, if the terrestrial planets were transported to either A or B they'd behave virtually the same as they already do.  Mars' orbit might be vulnerable but something at Earth's distance would be totally safe.  Considering Kepler's confirmed sightings of binary planets, both circumbinary and singularly, it implies something should be around either star. 

In nature, even if it's a weird gap something almost always falls into it.  Jupiter, for instance, orbits an object (Sun) over 1,000 times it's mass and still holds sway over over swarms of moons and two hordes of Trojan asteroids.  I cite this because Trojans are not perfectly stable, likely more so when Jupiter was small and still in formation, and yet today numerous bodies fill those voids because it exists out of a gigantic balancing act between a planet and star.  Likewise, especially during their formation, the Alpha Centauri triplet was probably a mess but anything not consumed by the stars could have been coaxed into stable orbits.
"Let the trails lead where they may, I will follow."
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Offline as58

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #11 on: 10/12/2016 10:33 AM »
Is there any real info available anywhere? The group seems to have been very successful in getting press releases out (there are articles on New York Times, the Guardian, Popular Science, and Scientific American websites), but there's very little in terms of information about the technical plan and scientific rationale (beyond 'it would be so cool'). A look at the website of BoldlyGo Institute shows that this isn't their first project, but I don't see evidence that any of them has made much progress. I was sceptical to begin with, but now I'm even more so.

Offline Star One

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Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #12 on: 10/12/2016 12:00 PM »
Is there any real info available anywhere? The group seems to have been very successful in getting press releases out (there are articles on New York Times, the Guardian, Popular Science, and Scientific American websites), but there's very little in terms of information about the technical plan and scientific rationale (beyond 'it would be so cool'). A look at the website of BoldlyGo Institute shows that this isn't their first project, but I don't see evidence that any of them has made much progress. I was sceptical to begin with, but now I'm even more so.

I am not sure why you think they should put all this info out there now, especially if the technology involving the telescope is proprietary.
« Last Edit: 10/12/2016 12:01 PM by Star One »

Offline as58

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #13 on: 10/12/2016 12:15 PM »
Is there any real info available anywhere? The group seems to have been very successful in getting press releases out (there are articles on New York Times, the Guardian, Popular Science, and Scientific American websites), but there's very little in terms of information about the technical plan and scientific rationale (beyond 'it would be so cool'). A look at the website of BoldlyGo Institute shows that this isn't their first project, but I don't see evidence that any of them has made much progress. I was sceptical to begin with, but now I'm even more so.

I am not sure why you think they should put all this info out there now, especially if the technology involving the telescope is proprietary.

To convince anyone to give them money? If they're hoping to launch in 2020, there's no time to waste.

Offline Star One

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #14 on: 10/12/2016 12:55 PM »
Is there any real info available anywhere? The group seems to have been very successful in getting press releases out (there are articles on New York Times, the Guardian, Popular Science, and Scientific American websites), but there's very little in terms of information about the technical plan and scientific rationale (beyond 'it would be so cool'). A look at the website of BoldlyGo Institute shows that this isn't their first project, but I don't see evidence that any of them has made much progress. I was sceptical to begin with, but now I'm even more so.

I am not sure why you think they should put all this info out there now, especially if the technology involving the telescope is proprietary.

To convince anyone to give them money? If they're hoping to launch in 2020, there's no time to waste.

Maybe such information is for potential investors eyes only.

Offline as58

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #15 on: 10/12/2016 01:08 PM »
Is there any real info available anywhere? The group seems to have been very successful in getting press releases out (there are articles on New York Times, the Guardian, Popular Science, and Scientific American websites), but there's very little in terms of information about the technical plan and scientific rationale (beyond 'it would be so cool'). A look at the website of BoldlyGo Institute shows that this isn't their first project, but I don't see evidence that any of them has made much progress. I was sceptical to begin with, but now I'm even more so.

I am not sure why you think they should put all this info out there now, especially if the technology involving the telescope is proprietary.

To convince anyone to give them money? If they're hoping to launch in 2020, there's no time to waste.

Maybe such information is for potential investors eyes only.

Maybe if they're looking for private investors. But I'm very doubtful they could do that and hope to get money from academia or national space agencies, as the plan seems to be.

Offline Star One

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #16 on: 11/15/2016 07:28 PM »
Quote
This gets interesting in the context of Project Blue, a consortium of space organizations looking into exoplanetary imaging technologies. This morning Project Blue drew on the work of some of those present at Stanford, launching a campaign to fund a telescope that could obtain the first image of an Earth-like planet outside our Solar System, perhaps by as early as the end of the decade. The idea here is to ignite a Kickstarter effort aimed at raising $1 million to support needed telescope design studies. A $4 million ‘stretch goal’ would allow testing of the coronagraph, completion of telescope design and the beginning of manufacturing.

Quote
Project Blue thinks it can bring this mission home — i.e., launch the telescope and carry out its mission — at a final cost of $50 million (the original ACEsat was a $175 million design). The figure is modest enough when you consider that Kepler, which has transformed our view of exoplanets, cost $600 million, while the James Webb Space Telescope weighs in at $8 billion. About a quarter of the total cost, according to the project, goes into getting the telescope into orbit, which will involve partnering with various providers to lower costs.

But Project Blue also hopes to build a public community around the mission to support design and research activities. Jon Morse is mission executive for the project:

“We’re at an incredible moment in history, where for the first time, we have the technology to actually find another Earth,” said Morse. “Just as exciting — thanks to the power of crowdfunding — we can open this mission to everyone. With the Project Blue consortium, we are bringing together the technical experts who can build and launch this telescope. Now we want to bring along everyone else as well. This is a new kind of space initiative — to achieve cutting-edge science for low cost in just a few years, and it empowers us all to participate in this moment of human discovery.”

http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=36621

Offline redliox

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #17 on: 11/15/2016 08:16 PM »
Here's a link to Project Blue's kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/projectblue/project-blue-a-space-telescope-to-photograph-anoth?token=359cb0d7

I'm going to try putting something towards this myself and I hope others here do likewise.
"Let the trails lead where they may, I will follow."
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Offline Star One

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #18 on: 11/15/2016 09:08 PM »
Here's a link to Project Blue's kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/projectblue/project-blue-a-space-telescope-to-photograph-anoth?token=359cb0d7

I'm going to try putting something towards this myself and I hope others here do likewise.

Couldn't remember if we were allowed to directly link to Kickstarter pages on here.

Online hop

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #19 on: 11/16/2016 05:30 AM »
A few thoughts

Many of the people on the advisers page (http://www.projectblue.org/advisors/) are serious researches in the field. On some these crowdfunded projects "advisors" seem to just be celebrities lending their names, but my impression here is that they would be leading the project. These seem like people who have a good chance of developing a viable, worthwhile mission if they get enough money, though history suggests "enough" will be on the high side of initial estimates.

$1M on kickstarter is a pretty high bar, especially for a project like this where the rewards most people get are things like stickers and t-shirts. They are basically mining the same field of space geeks as many other space kickstarters, there seems little chance of it being a runaway hit with the wider public like a gadget or pop culture item might.

As they make clear on the kickstarter, $1M or even the $4M stretch goal is nowhere close the the total cost. They don't talk much about where the other $20-$50M is going to come from, aside from a brief mention of being "in discussions with private donors and like-minded corporate partners". IMO, it's safe to assume the majority of the funding is very much in question even if they meet the kickstarter goal.

I've never been a huge fan of the "help us raise X on kickstarter, and get your reward if we raise 20X elsewhere" approach, but there are plenty of rewards that don't depend on them flying.

Even if they don't fly, any development done has a good chance of contributing to the field down the road.

They pin the launch cost at around 1/4 the total. $5M seems low to launch a ~50cm telescope.

2020 seems like a very aggressive launch date, but slipping a few years wouldn't impact the overall goal.

Conclusion:
Cool project, I wish them luck, not holding my breath for it to fly but a successful kickstarter would likely support useful work even if it doesn't.

Offline Star One

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Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #20 on: 11/16/2016 06:52 AM »
There have been other kickstarters successful at that six figure level of fund raising. Not such raising this kind of figure but exceeding it.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235313
« Last Edit: 11/16/2016 06:52 AM by Star One »

Offline IainMcClatchie

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #21 on: 11/16/2016 08:10 AM »
The major specific I recall is that they want to build a telescope sized like a fridge with a mirror 45-50 centimeters across.  On top of that, they did specify it would be imaging in the visible light.

....I suppose the question is, with essentially unlimited viewing time (the advantage of a private 'scope versus Hubble or Webb) and apparently a handful of 21st-Century tricks, can a telescope only half-a-meter wide indeed image something around either Alpha Centauri A and B?

Well, it's not going to image any such planet.

An Earth-sized (12700 km diameter) planet around Alpha Centauri A (4.37 light-years) is 3e-10 radians across.  To resolve that with 550 nm (green) light, you'd need an aperture 2.2 km in diameter.  That will make the planet fill one pixel.  This is obviously not the way to go.

Instead, they've figured out how to block most of the light from one point source so that another extremely close and faint point source, 4000 times too close to resolve, can be detected.  With just one reading in the visible band, they can say something about size.  If they can get a spectrum, maybe in the 700 to 950 nm band which is detectable by off-the-shelf CMOS imagers, then they might be able to say something about water.  If they'd use a MWIR detector (still off-the-shelf, but a smaller shelf) then they could see the 2.7 micron absorption band for water and say something more definitive.

MWIR 2.7 microns doesn't require cooled optics, although for the light levels they might get, maybe it does.

Offline Hungry4info3

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #22 on: 11/16/2016 09:17 PM »
Yes, a small telescope can image a planet at Alpha Centauri.
http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=34560

An Earth-sized (12700 km diameter) planet around Alpha Centauri A (4.37 light-years) is 3e-10 radians across.  To resolve that with 550 nm (green) light, you'd need an aperture 2.2 km in diameter.  That will make the planet fill one pixel.  This is obviously not the way to go.

Why do we need the planet to fill a pixel for useful science? We certainly haven't needed to meet this requirement for the dozens of other exoplanets that have been imaged.

Offline baldusi

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #23 on: 11/16/2016 11:01 PM »
A 50cm mirror won't resolve a planet, but can easily treat it as a point source. I did the math a while ago, and each pixel was quite smaller than an AU. So as point source you could do direct imaging. Yes, you won't resolve a continent, but any spectral analysis could be done, and it's apparent movement could be done. Even the doppler shift taken. And if you have two years of observations you could do a very good orbit determination.

Offline redliox

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #24 on: 11/18/2016 07:52 PM »
A 50cm mirror won't resolve a planet, but can easily treat it as a point source. I did the math a while ago, and each pixel was quite smaller than an AU. So as point source you could do direct imaging. Yes, you won't resolve a continent, but any spectral analysis could be done, and it's apparent movement could be done. Even the doppler shift taken. And if you have two years of observations you could do a very good orbit determination.

Right!  There's a huge amount of significant science that can still be done such as:
1) Establishing temperature range
2) Presence of water
3) Atmospheric Composition

The Kepler telescope didn't produce vibrant images of its exoplanets, but it virtually single-highhandedly nailed down a factor in the Drake Equation.  We now know that planets are extremely common and aren't uncommon in habitable zones.  We may not get fancy images of Alpha Centauri's planets but we would get revelations about sunlike stars and the prospects of humanity's likely future destination.
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Offline as58

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #25 on: 11/18/2016 11:29 PM »
A 50cm mirror won't resolve a planet, but can easily treat it as a point source. I did the math a while ago, and each pixel was quite smaller than an AU. So as point source you could do direct imaging. Yes, you won't resolve a continent, but any spectral analysis could be done, and it's apparent movement could be done. Even the doppler shift taken. And if you have two years of observations you could do a very good orbit determination.

Not by this project. There's very little information available, but I haven't seen anything about spectroscopy. It seems that all the project hopes to do is image the planet. (I'm not sure if imaging is really the right word when the signal from a possible planet is dug out of two years of data.) Honestly, to me this seems scientifically kinda pointless, but it could be good test bed for advanced coronagraphic techniques.

Offline IainMcClatchie

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #26 on: 11/18/2016 11:40 PM »
A 50cm mirror won't resolve a planet, but can easily treat it as a point source. I did the math a while ago, and each pixel was quite smaller than an AU. So as point source you could do direct imaging. Yes, you won't resolve a continent, but any spectral analysis could be done, and it's apparent movement could be done. Even the doppler shift taken. And if you have two years of observations you could do a very good orbit determination.

1 AU at 4.3 light years is 3.7 microradians.  A 50 cm aperture with 550 nm light will resolve two peaks 1.3 microradians apart.  You can theoretically resolve the sun and a little dot next to it.

The problem is that the Sun (3.8e26 watts) is a couple billion times brighter than, say, the Earth (1.7e17).  The ratio is better is the visible band, but it's still large.  The sensor itself has a dynamic range limitation of a few thousand to one, but this can be worked around.  The tricky bit is that the optical system itself has dynamic range limitations.  Apparently these folks have figured out how to reject most of the light from Alpha Centauri A and B so that their telescope can see a potential planet.  I'm sure that's possible, but I haven't seen an explanation of how.

Offline as58

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #27 on: 11/18/2016 11:56 PM »
1 AU at 4.3 light years is 3.7 microradians.  A 50 cm aperture with 550 nm light will resolve two peaks 1.3 microradians apart.  You can theoretically resolve the sun and a little dot next to it.

The problem is that the Sun (3.8e26 watts) is a couple billion times brighter than, say, the Earth (1.7e17).  The ratio is better is the visible band, but it's still large.  The sensor itself has a dynamic range limitation of a few thousand to one, but this can be worked around.  The tricky bit is that the optical system itself has dynamic range limitations.  Apparently these folks have figured out how to reject most of the light from Alpha Centauri A and B so that their telescope can see a potential planet.  I'm sure that's possible, but I haven't seen an explanation of how.

I think the contrast ratio is even a bit worse in the visible, about 1e-10. It increases to ~1e-7 at 10 um,  but of course then you'd need an aperture more than ten times as large for the same resolution.

I haven't seen anything about technical details, but there are some coronagraph designs that have IWA of less than 2*lambda/D, (which would be just enough) and, with aggressive post processing, possibly good enough starlight suppression. But I think this is right at the limit of what can be done with a 50 cm telescope.

Offline redliox

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #28 on: 11/21/2016 07:07 PM »
Keeping an eye out on how Project Blue's kickstarter's doing.  Not wholly promising: only about 8% funded with 29 days to go.  Possibly still a shot, but if this doesn't work they might need to take a more academic route with funding from agencies.
"Let the trails lead where they may, I will follow."
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Offline Star One

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #29 on: 11/22/2016 12:04 AM »
Keeping an eye out on how Project Blue's kickstarter's doing.  Not wholly promising: only about 8% funded with 29 days to go.  Possibly still a shot, but if this doesn't work they might need to take a more academic route with funding from agencies.
Of course it will not work as if anyone is going to fund it up to such a high amount when it isn't a gadget or computer game. The only chance they have as if it catches the eye of a few passing millionaires with money to spend.
« Last Edit: 11/22/2016 12:05 AM by Star One »

Offline Star One

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #30 on: 11/24/2016 07:30 PM »
Alpha Centauri is now officially called
Rigil Kentaurus.

Quote
Among the names formally approved by the WGSN are Proxima Centauri (for the nearest star to the Sun and host star of the nearest known exoplanet), Rigil Kentaurus (the ancient name for Alpha Centauri and names for dozens of bright stars commonly used for astronavigation. Among the stars with newly approved names that have recently been reported to host extrasolar planet candidates are: Algieba (Gamma1 Leonis), Hamal (Alpha Arietis), and Muscida (Omicron Ursae Majoris).

http://astronomynow.com/2016/11/24/international-astronomical-union-formally-approves-227-star-names/

Offline redliox

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #31 on: 11/24/2016 10:36 PM »
Alpha Centauri is now officially called
Rigil Kentaurus.

Quote
Among the names formally approved by the WGSN are Proxima Centauri (for the nearest star to the Sun and host star of the nearest known exoplanet), Rigil Kentaurus (the ancient name for Alpha Centauri and names for dozens of bright stars commonly used for astronavigation. Among the stars with newly approved names that have recently been reported to host extrasolar planet candidates are: Algieba (Gamma1 Leonis), Hamal (Alpha Arietis), and Muscida (Omicron Ursae Majoris).

http://astronomynow.com/2016/11/24/international-astronomical-union-formally-approves-227-star-names/

Ironically Proxima Centauri keeps the same name.  It would have made more sense to renamed Alpha Centauri to Rigil Centauri likewise.
« Last Edit: 11/24/2016 11:43 PM by redliox »
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Offline as58

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #32 on: 11/25/2016 05:51 AM »
Ironically Proxima Centauri keeps the same name.  It would have made more sense to renamed Alpha Centauri to Rigil Centauri likewise.

Proxima Centauri didn't 'keep the same name'; that name wasn't officially recognised by IAU before. Alpha Centauri wasn't renamed, it just now also has an official proper name in addition to its Bayer designation and other catalogue names. This IAU decision changes pretty much nothing. Everyone, including professional astronomers, was already using name Proxima Centauri and l believe Alpha Centauri will continue to be used more commonly than Rigil Kentaurusi. I'm not sure why IAU set up a working group to start giving proper names to stars (in most cases, just making traditional names official). Maybe it is a reaction to all kinds of 'name a star for a fee' schemes.
« Last Edit: 11/25/2016 04:36 PM by as58 »

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #33 on: 11/25/2016 08:28 AM »
Personally, thanks to Sid Meier, I think of A-Cent A as 'Apollo' and A-Cent B as 'Hercules'. I can't personally foresee any point in the future when A-Cent B isn't 'Proxima', no matter what the various governing bodies say.
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Offline redliox

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #34 on: 11/25/2016 02:36 PM »
Personally, thanks to Sid Meier, I think of A-Cent A as 'Apollo' and A-Cent B as 'Hercules'. I can't personally foresee any point in the future when A-Cent B isn't 'Proxima', no matter what the various governing bodies say.

Can kind of relate since I played that game too.  ;)

I can understand Apollo, so he was a deity related to the sun although I dunno Hercules is star/sun worthy (outside of his actual constellation); however I have to admit Hercules (or Herakles) does have ties to centaur myths; there aren't too many well-known centaur names alas.
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Offline as58

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #35 on: 11/25/2016 04:35 PM »
Personally, thanks to Sid Meier, I think of A-Cent A as 'Apollo' and A-Cent B as 'Hercules'. I can't personally foresee any point in the future when A-Cent B isn't 'Proxima', no matter what the various governing bodies say.

Not exactly sure if I understand you correctly, but Alpha Centauri B is not the same star as Proxima Centauri. Proxima Centauri is (probably) the third star of the Alpha Centauri system, so it's Alpha Centauri C (though that name is very rarely used). Alpha Centauri A is Rigil Kentaurus (yes, different spelling). Alpha Centauri B has no proper name, neither official nor (at least to my knowledge) unofficial.

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #36 on: 11/25/2016 09:01 PM »
Sorry, I mistyped; it should have been "I can't personally foresee any point in the future when A-Cent C isn't 'Proxima', no matter what the various governing bodies say."

As for the selection of the name 'Hercules', Mr Meier's justification was that the close binary orbit of the A and B elements of Alpha Centauri would rule out a large planetary system and certainly any large objects significantly outside the orbit of the Earth-like Chiron around A-Cent A. Because Hercules in Greek mythology eradicated the Centaurs, Meier proposed the name for A-Cent B as it was 'the slayer of the Centaurs', the force that prevented A-Cent A from having more than a fairly small planetary system.
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Offline CuddlyRocket

Alpha Centauri is now officially called
Rigil Kentaurus.

Not quite. The IAU Working Group on Star Names approved the name Rigil Kentaurus for Alpha Centauri A. It had previously approved the name Proxima Centauri for Alpha Centauri C. It has yet to approve a name for Alpha Centauri B. Both the bulletins announcing the approvals and the IAU's Catalog of Star Names specifically specifies the letters in these two cases.

The WGSN only names individual stars, whether or not they are part of a multiple star system. It will get round to naming the other components as some future date (it made an exception for Proxima Centauri as the star was just about to hit the headlines due to the discovery of the orbiting planet) and might later consider naming multiple star systems. Note that the IAU does not regard 'Alpha Centauri' as a name but as a designation.

I'm not sure why IAU set up a working group to start giving proper names to stars (in most cases, just making traditional names official). Maybe it is a reaction to all kinds of 'name a star for a fee' schemes.

Partly. But it was also a result of the NameExoWorlds process where the public was invited to name exoplanets and their host stars where the latter didn't already have a name. They didn't want to approve a star name that was already the name of a star and realised that there was no recognised list of such names. Also, it's an opportunity for public outreach once the more famous stars have been dealt with and a way of being more inclusive in regard to other cultures.

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #38 on: 11/27/2016 06:19 PM »
Alpha Centauri is now officially called
Rigil Kentaurus.

Not quite. The IAU Working Group on Star Names approved the name Rigil Kentaurus for Alpha Centauri A. It had previously approved the name Proxima Centauri for Alpha Centauri C. It has yet to approve a name for Alpha Centauri B. Both the bulletins announcing the approvals and the IAU's Catalog of Star Names specifically specifies the letters in these two cases.

The WGSN only names individual stars, whether or not they are part of a multiple star system. It will get round to naming the other components as some future date (it made an exception for Proxima Centauri as the star was just about to hit the headlines due to the discovery of the orbiting planet) and might later consider naming multiple star systems. Note that the IAU does not regard 'Alpha Centauri' as a name but as a designation.

I'm not sure why IAU set up a working group to start giving proper names to stars (in most cases, just making traditional names official). Maybe it is a reaction to all kinds of 'name a star for a fee' schemes.

Partly. But it was also a result of the NameExoWorlds process where the public was invited to name exoplanets and their host stars where the latter didn't already have a name. They didn't want to approve a star name that was already the name of a star and realised that there was no recognised list of such names. Also, it's an opportunity for public outreach once the more famous stars have been dealt with and a way of being more inclusive in regard to other cultures.

Thank you for that. Why didn't they name all three stars in the system at once as it seems illogical not to do so? Also what is likely to be the name for Alpha Centauri B?

Offline as58

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #39 on: 11/27/2016 06:44 PM »
Thank you for that. Why didn't they name all three stars in the system at once as it seems illogical not to do so? Also what is likely to be the name for Alpha Centauri B?

Alpha Centauri B has never had a proper name (or more accurately, originally Rigil Kentaurus was the name of both A and B because to naked eye they appear as a single star). So IAU would probably have to come up with something new, which is obviously more complicated than just making an old name official.

Offline Star One

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Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #40 on: 11/27/2016 06:52 PM »
Thank you for that. Why didn't they name all three stars in the system at once as it seems illogical not to do so? Also what is likely to be the name for Alpha Centauri B?

Alpha Centauri B has never had a proper name (or more accurately, originally Rigil Kentaurus was the name of both A and B because to naked eye they appear as a single star). So IAU would probably have to come up with something new, which is obviously more complicated than just making an old name official.

Just a shame that because Proxima Centauri's planet hasn't been directly observed yet it cannot be officially named.
« Last Edit: 11/27/2016 06:52 PM by Star One »

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #41 on: 11/28/2016 12:47 AM »
Thank you for that. Why didn't they name all three stars in the system at once as it seems illogical not to do so? Also what is likely to be the name for Alpha Centauri B?

Alpha Centauri B has never had a proper name (or more accurately, originally Rigil Kentaurus was the name of both A and B because to naked eye they appear as a single star). So IAU would probably have to come up with something new, which is obviously more complicated than just making an old name official.

Just a shame that because Proxima Centauri's planet hasn't been directly observed yet it cannot be officially named.

There's still a chance that it is a statistical fluke. Until they fully confirm it, it would be premature to name it.

Offline CuddlyRocket

Thank you for that. Why didn't they name all three stars in the system at once as it seems illogical not to do so? Also what is likely to be the name for Alpha Centauri B?

Alpha Centauri B has never had a proper name (or more accurately, originally Rigil Kentaurus was the name of both A and B because to naked eye they appear as a single star). So IAU would probably have to come up with something new, which is obviously more complicated than just making an old name official.

There's probably a bit of a debate within the WGSN. They could put it out to the public, but most likely is that they'll eventually choose an existing name by which Alpha Centauri is known in some other culture. (There was a suggestion that A be named Rigil and B Kentaurus, but Rigil was felt too similar to Rigel (Beta Orionis).)

Just a shame that because Proxima Centauri's planet hasn't been directly observed yet it cannot be officially named.

Most (all?) of the exoplanets that have been officially named haven't been directly observed yet. The test is that there's consensus among the professional astronomical community that the planet exists; which probably requires independent verification. As for the name, there's talk of another NameExoWorlds public process, but they could just leave it to the discoverers to suggest something appropriate.

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #43 on: 11/28/2016 12:04 PM »
Thank you for that. Why didn't they name all three stars in the system at once as it seems illogical not to do so? Also what is likely to be the name for Alpha Centauri B?

Alpha Centauri B has never had a proper name (or more accurately, originally Rigil Kentaurus was the name of both A and B because to naked eye they appear as a single star). So IAU would probably have to come up with something new, which is obviously more complicated than just making an old name official.

There's probably a bit of a debate within the WGSN. They could put it out to the public, but most likely is that they'll eventually choose an existing name by which Alpha Centauri is known in some other culture. (There was a suggestion that A be named Rigil and B Kentaurus, but Rigil was felt too similar to Rigel (Beta Orionis).)

Just a shame that because Proxima Centauri's planet hasn't been directly observed yet it cannot be officially named.

Most (all?) of the exoplanets that have been officially named haven't been directly observed yet. The test is that there's consensus among the professional astronomical community that the planet exists; which probably requires independent verification. As for the name, there's talk of another NameExoWorlds public process, but they could just leave it to the discoverers to suggest something appropriate.

I suppose they have to be careful with planet naming. If Mike Brown ever discovers planet nine that will be whole kettle of fish being as that's in the Solar System. I can't see that being put to the public vote.

Offline Star One

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Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #44 on: 12/16/2016 07:13 PM »
Quote
Project Blue –  ‏@proj_blue

We’re climbing toward our goal but WE NEED YOUR HELP to blast off toward it. Details/what's in it 4 u:  http://blueks.org  #Kickstarter

https://mobile.twitter.com/proj_blue/status/809383449505263616

Looking at their actually Kickstarter page and they are miles away from their goal, they haven't even reached the quarter way mark.
« Last Edit: 12/16/2016 07:15 PM by Star One »

Offline redliox

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #45 on: 12/19/2016 11:08 PM »
Quote
Project Blue –  ‏@proj_blue

We’re climbing toward our goal but WE NEED YOUR HELP to blast off toward it. Details/what's in it 4 u:  http://blueks.org  #Kickstarter

https://mobile.twitter.com/proj_blue/status/809383449505263616

Looking at their actually Kickstarter page and they are miles away from their goal, they haven't even reached the quarter way mark.

They just reached the quarter mark but there's only ~30 hours left to get the remaining 3/4.  So sadly time's against them but still efforts like this should be attempted.
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Offline Star One

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #46 on: 02/10/2017 07:01 PM »
Tightening the Parameters for Centauri A and B

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When it comes to the nearest stars, our focus of late has been on Proxima Centauri and its intriguing planet. But of course the work on Centauri A and B continues at a good clip. The prospects in this system are enticing — a G-class star like our own, a K-class dwarf likewise capable of hosting planets, and the red dwarf Proxima a scant 15000 AU away. Project Blue examines how we might image planets here as our radial velocity studies proceed.

But we have much to learn, and not just about possible planets. A new paper by Pierre Kervella (Observatoire de Paris), working with Lionel Bigot and Fréderic Thévenin (both at the Observatoire de la Cote d’Azur), reminds us of the importance of firming up our stellar data.

We need to learn as much as possible about Centauri A and B not just because we’d like to find planets there but also because the work has implications for space missions, including the ESA’s Gaia, which will tighten our distance measurements to many stars. The Alpha Centauri stars are important benchmarks for Gaia, putting the emphasis on an accurate calibration of the basic stellar parameters in this system.

http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=37114

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #47 on: 02/12/2017 07:01 PM »
FWIW, I'm wondering if there may be a few planetary objects, gravitationally bound to A-B but in a very, very eccentric and high-perihelion orbit due to being ejected by the interaction of the two primaries and with orbital periods of several centuries or even a millennium. A 'frozen Jupiter' or two.

Just out of interest, if a Jupiter-like body (sub-brown dwarf) was orbiting in between A-B and Proxima, would it be detectable at infrared wavelengths?
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Offline redliox

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #48 on: 02/12/2017 09:03 PM »
FWIW, I'm wondering if there may be a few planetary objects, gravitationally bound to A-B but in a very, very eccentric and high-perihelion orbit due to being ejected by the interaction of the two primaries and with orbital periods of several centuries or even a millennium. A 'frozen Jupiter' or two.

Possibly.  We simply don't know what's orbiting either A or B.  There's probably a lot of potential.


Just out of interest, if a Jupiter-like body (sub-brown dwarf) was orbiting in between A-B and Proxima, would it be detectable at infrared wavelengths?

I seem to recall they detected something between A-B and us although it was likely a Kuiper object.  As far as detecting what you're talking about, it would have to be something in a very wide orbit as they already eliminated the possibility of anything larger than Neptune orbiting any of the Alpha Centauri members.  The best guess for the immediate future would likely depend on whatever the JWST can detect when it gets a chance to be aimed there.
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Offline Star One

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #49 on: 02/12/2017 10:25 PM »
FWIW, I'm wondering if there may be a few planetary objects, gravitationally bound to A-B but in a very, very eccentric and high-perihelion orbit due to being ejected by the interaction of the two primaries and with orbital periods of several centuries or even a millennium. A 'frozen Jupiter' or two.

Possibly.  We simply don't know what's orbiting either A or B.  There's probably a lot of potential.


Just out of interest, if a Jupiter-like body (sub-brown dwarf) was orbiting in between A-B and Proxima, would it be detectable at infrared wavelengths?

I seem to recall they detected something between A-B and us although it was likely a Kuiper object.  As far as detecting what you're talking about, it would have to be something in a very wide orbit as they already eliminated the possibility of anything larger than Neptune orbiting any of the Alpha Centauri members.  The best guess for the immediate future would likely depend on whatever the JWST can detect when it gets a chance to be aimed there.

Which is the entire point of Project Blue.

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #50 on: 09/12/2017 06:53 AM »
Looks like they are trying again, this time using indiegogo with the option that gives them however much is pledged https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/join-the-search-for-another-earth-science-technology#/

Pretty much everything I said last time still seems to apply, except the part about not hitting the goal. The new goal is an even smaller fraction of the total.
« Last Edit: 09/12/2017 07:38 AM by hop »

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #51 on: 09/12/2017 03:15 PM »
Quote
Project Blue‏ @proj_blue 11m11 minutes ago

Look for news about Space Act Agreement with NASA tomorrow.

https://twitter.com/proj_blue/status/907620829390929926

Offline Dao Angkan

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Re: Project Blue to image a planet in the Alpha Centauri system
« Reply #52 on: 09/13/2017 03:05 AM »
BoldlyGo Institute and NASA Sign Space Act Agreement for Joint Cooperation on Project Blue Mission

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The BoldlyGo Institute (BoldlyGo) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have signed a Space Act Agreement to cooperate on "Project Blue," a mission to search for potentially habitable Earth-size planets in the Alpha Centauri system using a specially designed space telescope.

"We're pleased to be working with NASA on this ambitious public-private partnership," said Dr. Jon Morse, CEO of BoldlyGo. "Much of the coronagraph imaging technology needed for Project Blue to take direct images of exoplanets from space has been developed through NASA-funded programs. Having access to NASA's scientific and technical expertise throughout the mission lifecycle is invaluable," Morse continued.

The Space Act Agreement is non-reimbursable, with no exchange of funds between NASA and BoldlyGo. It allows NASA employees - scientists and engineers - to interact with the Project Blue team through its mission development phases to help review mission design plans and to share scientific results on Alpha Centauri and exoplanets along with the latest technology tests being undertaken at NASA facilities. NASA's engagement in its consulting role will be triggered through a set of milestones as technical work is accomplished and the private consortium leading Project Blue raises the funds necessary to continue mission development.

The agreement also calls for the raw and processed data from Project Blue to be made available to NASA within one year of its acquisition on orbit via a publicly accessible online data archive. The Project Blue team has been planning such an archive for broadly sharing the data with the global astronomical community and for enabling citizen scientist participation.

BoldlyGo and the Project Blue mission team are responsible for the funding and design of a small telescope capable of blocking a star's light in order to image surrounding exoplanets. The telescope will take 3-4 years to construct and launch. Once in orbit, Project Blue will perform an intensive two-year study of Alpha Centauri -- the closest star system to Earth -- with the goal of identifying and capturing a "pale blue dot" image of an Earth-size exoplanet in the habitable zone of the Alpha Centauri A and B stars. The habitable zone is the distance from a star where orbiting planets can have surface temperatures that allow liquid water to pool. While NASA's Kepler mission has shown that terrestrial-sized planets are common in our galaxy, Project Blue would be the first to image in visible light a planet as small as Earth that could potentially sustain life.