The Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer sets its sights on habitable planets
January 21, 2015 05:53 PM - JPL/California Institute of Technology
The NASA-funded Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer, or LBTI, has completed its first study of dust in the "habitable zone" around a star, opening a new door to finding planets like Earth. Dust is a natural byproduct of the planet-formation process, but too much of it can block our view of planets.
The findings will help in the design of future space missions that have the goal of taking pictures of planets similar to Earth, called exo-Earths.
"Kepler told us how common Earth-like planets are," said Phil Hinz, the principal investigator of the LBTI project at the University of Arizona, Tucson, referring to NASA's planet-hunting Kepler mission, which has identified more than 4,000 planetary candidates around stars. "Now we want to find out just how dusty and obscured planetary environments are, and how difficult the planets will be to image."