|Artist s impression of EELT in its enclosure on Cerro Armazones in Chile s Atacama Desert.|
By JEREMY WATSON
THEY are boldly going into outer space, armed with lasers – not with aggressive intent but to discover Earth-like planets that might be home to life.
Scottish scientists have been awarded a £250,000 grant to develop an infrared laser that can detect small planets orbiting stars in distant solar systems.
If trials are successful, the device will be fitted to the planned European Extremely Large Telescope (EELT), the world’s most powerful telescope, which aims to probe the mysteries of the universe.
Professor Derryck Reid, head of optics and photonics technology at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, said that the laser will allow astronomers to hunt planets with a far greater degree of accuracy than has previously been possible.
He said: “Current technology is very good but this is a new technology that will help us in the search for new Earth-sized planets.”
The EELT is an international research project aimed at building a telescope that can interpret light data from the far reaches of the universe and is far more powerful than existing machines, such as the Hubble space telescope. . . .
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