Alien-hunters take aim at the star next door

European Extremely Large Telescope
The European Extremely Large Telescope is one of the yet-to-be-built observatories that could target the nearest exoplanet, Proxima Centauri b, for direct imaging.. (Credit: ESO)

GUADALAJARA, Mexico – A multimillion-dollar campaign to look for evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations has added telescopic observations of the nearest known exoplanet, Proxima Centauri b, to its agenda.

Last month’s announcement about the detection of Proxima b caused a sensation because scientists said the planet is only a little more massive than Earth, orbiting in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri, the red dwarf star that’s closest to our own solar system. That put Proxima b at the top of the list of prospects in the search for life beyond the solar system.

It may take a decade or two, but the Breakthrough Prize Foundation says it is looking into the options for direct imaging of Proxima b, a mere 4.3 light-years away,

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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