‘Low-budget’ Twinkle telescope will be capable of detecting exoplanets

By @vitthernandez on
An artist's depiction of Kepler-62e is shown in this NASA handout provided November 4, 2013. Kepler-62e is a super Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a star smaller and cooler than the sun, located about 1,200 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. One out of every five sun-like stars in the Milky Way galaxy has a planet about the size of Earth that is properly positioned for water, a key ingredient for life, a study released on Monday shows. Reuters/NASA Ames

While the trend in the space exploration industry is building enormous telescopes that possibly surpass the size of giants such as the James Webb and the Hubble, a group of European scientists say “smaller and cheaper” can also make a difference.

According to Giovanna Tinetti, an astrophysicist at University College London, her team is now planning to build the Twinkle Telescope, a relatively smaller optical instrument for space exploration that will utilise a 50-centimeter (20 inches) mirror. The Hubble Telescope, one of the biggest telescopes in the world today, uses an 8-foot mirror.

“We have identified a niche of science that could be done very well even with a relatively more modest instrument. Since the planets will be hothouse worlds that are relatively close by Earth, their infrared signatures are so strong that astronomers can infer the presence of molecules, clouds, weather and climate even in a small telescope,” Tinetti told Discovery News. 

But Twinkle isn’t only small in size. Its production budget is only 50 million pounds ($79 million). However, Tinetti said it is enough for them to develop a telescope that would soon become a substantial addition to the growing numbers of revolutionary, modern-day equipment for space exploration. This telescope is capable of detecting other extrasolar planets—or Super-Earths—which could further the existing studies on the possibilities of alien life in different systems and galaxies. 

“While Twinkle is much smaller than other counterparts, its heavyweight contribution will be looking at a range of visible and infrared emissions (0.5 microns to 5 microns) from planets around very bright stars which are not the sweet spot of the James Webb Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope,” Tinetti added.

Though “Super-Earth” does not imply anything about its habitability, several scientists believe that new innovations in telescope technology could put us nearer to our search for “other life” outside the Solar System. William Bains, a scientist at MIT, also suggested that the renewed enthusiasm for alien life could also help humans to look beyond exoplanets, as “sky's the limit” in aerospace research.

“What we've been trying to do is move away from [exoplanets]. We wanted to build a model of biosignatures independent of Earth's biology,” he told Space.com when asked about his study on Super-Earths with hydrogen-rich atmospheres.

Bains is right. Last July, another “ambitious” innovation has rocked the astronomy segment.

The Santilli Telescope, a space exploration optical technology, is the first of its kind to successfully detect antimatter particles. It was developed by Dr. Ruggero Maria Santilli for Thunder Energies Corporation (OTCQB: TNRG ) , an earth-friendly fossil fuel and coal combustion technology innovator.

Antimatters have been widely ignored by many astrophysicists in modern-day science after the likes of Einstein, Newton, and Galileo dismissed the idea of these particles’ existence during their respective times.  

“In searching for antimatter galaxies, it is of importance to note that when in contact, matter and antimatter annihilate into light. Hence, all features for capturing matter are reversed for capturing antimatter, including the index of refraction which is positive for matter-light, thus requiring a convex lens to focus images, but expected to be negative for antimatter-light, thus requiring a concave lens to focus images,” the company explained on its website .

The telescope is a massive hit both to amateur and professional space explorers as it challenges the principle of the Galilean telescope, the most widely used space telescope today.

The Santilli Telescope uses concave lenses when focusing on images of antimatter-light. However, it also has a capability of a regular space telescope with its convex lenses in capturing images of matter-light.

For most scientists, however, it is beneficial that there’s always new technologies and machines being introduced in the astronomy segment. “We have already approached an era when both the amateur and professional world are working hand in hand in introducing innovations in the industry in which everyone’s expected to move forward and not the other way around,” Dr R.M. Santilli said in a statement.  

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