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$20,643 pledged of $35,000 goal
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All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .

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ExoLife Finder: A New Telescope To Find Life On Exoplanets

The ExoLife Finder, also known as ELF, will be the world's first and only telescope capable of imaging oceans, continents, and life on nearby exoplanets. Designed from the ground up, ELF is a new way to build affordable large-scale telescopes for exoplanetary research. Highly specialized to see exoplanets up to 120 trillion miles (24 light years) away from Earth, ELF is designed for detecting the energy signature of life or life’s likely chemical fingerprints in the atmosphere from water (H₂O), oxygen (O), methane (CH₄), and ozone (O₃), or on the surface from photosynthetic biopigments. 

The first target will be Proxima b. In only a few months after ELF is completed, we will know if there is life on this nearest exoplanet! We will also learn whether there are Earth-like planets around Alpha Centauri A and B and all other nearby stars within a few dozen light years from the Sun. We will learn if we have neighbors, small or big.

Achieving this requires an innovative design that allows us to both reduce the cost and increase the targeted sensitivity by a factor of 10x, making ELF the most realistic plan to find and characterize life on nearby exoplanets. For an in-depth overview of the ExoLife Finder, scroll down to the section below titled, "ExoLife Finder Telescope".

ELF Proposed Location: Atacama Desert, Chile

The PLANETS Telescope
Currently being built atop Haleakala on Maui, the PLANETS Telescope is an essential step in the development of the ambitious ExoLife Finder Telescope. Earlier this year we launched a Kickstarter for the PLANETS Telescope and were met with incredible support from backers from all over the world who helped fund the polishing of the PLANETS Telescope secondary mirror. Now that the PLANETS Telescope is underway, it's time to start on the next evolution of our thin mirror technology with ELF.

Dr. Svetlana Berdyugina at the Maui HNu staging, testing, and polishing facility for precision optics.
Dr. Svetlana Berdyugina at the Maui HNu staging, testing, and polishing facility for precision optics.

 

 

Exclusively on Kickstarter September 5th, 2017 - October 8th, 2017
Exclusively on Kickstarter September 5th, 2017 - October 8th, 2017

Cosmic Lights

Created by the PLANETS Foundation, Cosmic Lights are beautiful limited-edition LED science gifts featuring images of our ELF telescope, and some of the extreme examples of life found on Earth - lifeforms that might even exist under extreme exoplanetary conditions. They make the perfect addition to a nightstand, desk, office cubicle, or bookshelf. Each Cosmic Light comes with a remote control and can cycle between a variety of colors and modes.

All pledges come with a guaranteed delivery by December 25, 2017.

 

 

 

Tardigrade

Tardigrades are adorable water-dwelling, eight-legged, segmented micro-animals also known as water bears, space bears, and moss piglets.  First discovered by the German zoologist Johann August Ephraim Goeze in 1773 they have been found everywhere: from mountain tops to the deep sea and mud volcanoes; from tropical rain forests to the Antarctic. They can literally survive the conditions of space.

 

 

Polychaete 

A Polychaete, also known as a bristle worm is a handsome water creature and class of annelid worms. Each body segment of a polychaete has a pair of fleshy protrusions called parapodia that bear many bristles, which is why they are sometimes referred to as bristle worms. Astonishingly, there are more than 10,000 species of bristle worms on Earth. They can also survive “otherworldly” environmental conditions.

 

Prototype Design
Prototype Design

Voyager Cosmic Clock

Designed specifically to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Voyager space mission, Voyager Cosmic Clock is a one-of-a-kind 24-hour clock which displays the Voyager 1 Space Probe and the distances of potentially habitable exoplanets within 24 light years of Earth.
*Note: Throughout the campaign, the design of the Voyager Cosmic Clock will continue to be updated for legibility and functionality improvements. 

 

ExoLife Finder 

The ExoLife Finder Telescope is the world's first dedicated telescope capable of imaging, oceans, continents, and life on nearby exoplanets. Show your support by getting a limited edition scale model of the ExoLife Finder Telescope.

 

Both shirts were created specifically for this Kickstarter.
Both shirts were created specifically for this Kickstarter.

T-Shirts      

These high-quality t-shirts are printed with dye sublimation, a  full color, full-coverage printing technique that creates a beautiful result. With dye sublimation, dye particles convert into gas — known as sublimation — where they bond to the polyester fibers. Unlike screen printing, the dye is absorbed by the fabric for a fantastic, soft-to-the-hand feel. US Sizes: XS-SM-MD-LG-XL

Kickstarter Complete Set   

Save $10 off the retail price of $180

Ultimate Christmas Bundle Includes:    

  • Cosmic Light | Tardigrade 
  • Cosmic Light | ELF Telescope
  • Cosmic Light | Polychaete
  • Voyager Cosmic Clock

 

Guaranteed delivery by December 25, 2017. *Not all items in this picture come with Ultimate Christmas Bundle. Read pledge description for details.
Guaranteed delivery by December 25, 2017. *Not all items in this picture come with Ultimate Christmas Bundle. Read pledge description for details.

Ultimate Christmas Bundle 

The Ultimate Christmas Bundle is the perfect set of space and science gifts for this 2017 Holiday Season. Save $20 off the retail price of $275.

Ultimate Christmas Bundle Includes: 

  • Tardigrade Pin (Small But Mighty) 
  • ExoLife Finder (ELF) Poster 
  • Tardigrade T-Shirt
  • Cosmic Light | Tardigrade 
  • Cosmic Light | Polychaete 
  • Cosmic Light | ELF Telescope 
  • Voyager Cosmic Clock

 

 

ExoLife Finder (ELF) Telescope

The ExoLife Finder, or ELF for short, will be the world’s first telescope to create surface maps of the nearby exoplanets, including Proxima b.

ELF is a circular array of sixteen 5-meter (16.4 feet) mirrors and uses the thin “printed-mirror” technology that finding life signatures depends on. With a total diameter of about 25meters (82 feet), ELF is large enough to begin a dedicated program of imaging dozens of exoplanets within 25 light years of Earth and will enable a new field of exoplanetary and exolife research.

 

Tensegrity Design
The overall design of ELF is very unique compared to other large-scale telescopes. To reduce the mass and weight of the telescope, we use a structural principle called tensegrity. This is the same reason bicycle wheels can support a huge amount of weight but are incredibly light and strong. Tensegrity utilizes tension and compression and is often used in bridge designs.

 

Independent Off-Axis Mirrors
Each ELF mirror will have its own dedicated secondary mirror and will be “off-axis”. Off-Axis telescopes are often used in radio dish receivers but now, with modern fabrication technology, we can use them for optics. They are much better for our needs because they reduce the amount of scattered light that might interfere with the photons we get from the exoplanets. Exoplanets can be 1 million or even 1 billion times fainter than their host Star so it’s important that we have a sensitive system.

 

Slumped Telescope Glass
Typical telescope mirrors are many centimeters thick and take a long time to polish. We have been developing a new way to make very large telescope mirrors by taking thin, inexpensive, fire-polished window glass and slumping it in a specialized kiln that allows us to make very accurately shaped paraboloids. Surprisingly, the fire-polishing process to create typical window glass makes it incredibly smooth. When we combine this with electronic "muscle" Electroactive Polymers, we can create mirrors that are never abrasively polished that are orders of magnitude smoother and lighter-weight than traditional large scale telescope mirrors.

3D Printed Electroactive Polymers
We are miniaturizing the actuators that perfect the paraboloidal mirror shape needed to separate the light of an exoplanet from its star. Electroactive Polymers, or EAP for short, are incredibly strong synthetic muscles. By 3D printing 1,000’s of polymers on the back of the mirror we will be able to make incredibly small and accurate adjustments to the mirror to yield optical-quality off-axis paraboloids and to maintain their shape as the telescope environment changes. EAP's will be a great improvement over typical mirror actuators that are now sometimes used, because they will be much smaller and cheaper.

 

Algorithms/Software
Our team lead by Dr. Svetlana Berdyugina and Dr. Jeff Kuhn have created a unique algorithm that will be able to image these exoplanets and see things like continents, oceans, and life. Assuming we are looking at exoplanets similar to Earth, we will see in their atmospheres molecules like water (H₂O), oxygen (O), methane (CH₄), carbon dioxide (CO₂), and ozone (O₃), and on the surfaces - colonies of photosynthetic organisms or even thermal waste from civilizations not much more advanced than humans.

 

$40,000 - Locked
Funding goal will be unlocked once we reach $35,000.

$35,000 - Live Mirror Actuator Prototype
Help us reach this goal we will be able to build a fully working prototype of our advanced polymer actuator system. This is a crucial step in helping us build mirrors that have an overall thickness of 2cm including the electronics.   

 

 

Voyager Missions 

Launched in 1977, the Voyager Space Mission was designed to take advantage of a favorable alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, and are now exploring the outer boundary of the heliosphere in interstellar space. The Voyager program is a continuing American scientific program that employs two robotic probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, to study the outer Solar System. 

Although their original mission was to study only the planetary systems of Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager 2 continued on to Uranus and Neptune, and both Voyagers are now tasked with exploring interstellar space. Their mission has been extended three times, and both probes continue to collect and relay useful scientific data. Neither Uranus nor Neptune has been visited by any probe other than Voyager 2.

The Voyager Golden Records are phonograph records aboard both Voyager spacecrafts. The records contain sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or for future humans, who may find them. The Voyager Golden Records records are considered as a time capsule for humanity.
 

  

 

The PLANETS Foundation

The PLANETS Foundation is 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization of professors, astrophysicists, engineers, entrepreneurs and scientists from around the globe. Our members have made fundamental contributions to some of the most advanced telescopes now being built, like the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile or the Daniel K. Inouye Telescope on Haleakala. Our team collectively has many decades of experience building and designing large-scale optical systems for astrophysical research. 

Recent Research Papers

Talks & Lectures

Our University & Technology Partners 

We have been fortunate to partner with some of the world's most accomplished academic and technology organizations. We'd like to say thanks to all the individuals helping to make our vision a reality.

Dynamic Structures
Dynamic Structures is renowned for building some of the largest and most sophisticated astronomical telescopes in the world, including the Keck Telescopes. In conjunction with their sister company (Dynamic Optics) and scientists at UNAM they led the development of an advanced mirror-polishing technology called HyDRa that has the potential to be a game-changer in the way large optical quality reflective optics are created.  

 

HNu Photonics
Based on Maui, Hawaii, HNu Photonics is a science and technology company creating cutting-edge optical technologies for commercial, scientific and military applications. HNu is leading the charge with the HyDRa technology to demonstrate the PLANETS telescope primary mirror.  

 

Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics (KIS)
Headquartered in Freiburg, Germany, the Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics is a research institute focusing on the exploration of the Sun, stars, solar planets, and exoplanets. KIS is a founding member of the PLANETS Foundation and is major funding and technology partner to PLANETS telescope.  

 

National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
The National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) is a public research university in Mexico City, Mexico and is the largest university in Latin America. UNAM developed the early prototypes and techniques for HyDRa polishing.  

 

State University of Ponta Grossa
Established in 1970, State University of Ponta Grossa is one of the five state universities in Paraná, Brazil. State University of Ponta Grossa is our newest institutional partner to the PLANETS Telescope and is making a significant financial contribution to the construction of the PLANETS telescope.  

 

Tohoku University
 Located in Sendai, Miyagi Japan Tohoku University is the third oldest Imperial University in Japan and is considered as one of the most prestigious universities in Japan, and one of the top fifty universities in the world. Tohoku University is a founding member of the PLANETS Foundation and has been essential in providing funding and developing technology for the PLANETS telescope.  

 

Universite de Lyon
The Universite de Lyon, located in Lyon and Saint-Étienne, France, is a center for higher education and research comprising 16 institutions of higher education. The team at Universite de Lyon have made significant contributions to the design of the optical technologies for the PLANETS Telescope.

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    Thank you!

    Pledge $1 and receive a big virtual thank you from everyone at the PLANETS Foundation.

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    A Galactic Thank You!

    Pledge $25 and receive an adorable tardigrade pin as a token of our appreciation.

    From all of us at the PLANETS Foundation, thank you for your generous support of the ExoLife Finder Telescope!

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    ExoLife Finder (ELF) Poster

    Pledge $35 and receive a beautiful limited edition 24" x 36" poster of the ExoLife Finder Telescope at our proposed Atacama Desert, Chile site.

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    Cosmic Light | ELF Telescope

    Pledge $40 and receive a limited edition ExoLife Finder (ELF) Cosmic Light.

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    Polychaete T-Shirt

    Pledge $55 and receive a limited edition Polychaete t-shirt. Full-color, high resolution, high-quality t-shirts printed with dye sublimation.

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    Tardigrade T-Shirt

    Pledge $55 and receive a limited edition Tardigrade t-shirt. Full-color, high resolution, high-quality t-shirts printed with dye sublimation.

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    Voyager Cosmic Clock

    Pledge $60 and receive a limited edition Voyager Cosmic Clock featuring the Voyager 1 space probe and potentially habitable exoplanets within 24 light years of Earth.

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    Cosmic Lights Kickstarter Complete Set

    Pledge $170 and receive the Cosmic Lights Kickstarter Set which comes with the first 4 Cosmic Lights launched exclusively on Kickstarter.

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    Comic Lights | Ultimate Christmas Bundle

    Pledge $255 and receive the Cosmic Lights Ultimate Christmas Bundle, a set of science gifts for the special people in your life. The Ultimate Christmas Bundle comes with a guaranteed delivery by December 25, 2017.

    This charitable contribution qualifies for a tax deduction through the PLANETS Foundation.

    Includes:
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    • ExoLife Finder Poster
    • Tardigrade T-Shirt
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