It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
The Overwhelmingly Large Telescope (OWL) is a conceptual design by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) organization for an extremely large telescope, which was intended to have a single aperture of 100 meters in diameter. Because of the complexity and cost of building a telescope of this unprecedented size, ESO has elected to focus on the 42 meter diameter European Extremely Large Telescope instead.
While the original 100-m design would not exceed the angular resolving power of interferometric telescopes, it would have exceptional light-gathering and imaging capacity which would greatly increase the depth to which humankind could explore the universe. The OWL could be expected to regularly see astronomical objects with an apparent magnitude of 38; or 1,500 times fainter than the faintest object which has been detected by the Hubble Space Telescope.
All proposed designs for the OWL are variations on a segmented mirror, since there is no technology available to build a monolithic 60- or 100-meter mirror. The operation of a segmented mirror is somewhat more complicated than a monolithic one, requiring careful alignment of the segments (a technique called cophasing). Experience gained in existing segmented mirrors (for example, the Keck telescope) suggests that the mirror proposed for the OWL is feasible
According to NASA's 2007 budget documentation, released on February 6, 2006, the project was deferred indefinitely. In June 2006, a House of Representatives subcommittee voted to provide funding for the TPF along with the long-sought mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter that might harbor extraterrestrial life. However, as of June 2008, actual funding has not materialized, and TPF remains without a launch date
Originally posted by Ultraman2011
Thanks for posting,very interesting stuff. Do you feel without actually venturing out into space (even with probes), we would be able to determine if life existed on any of these planets with the telescope alone?
Follow the Ozone
The existence of large amounts of oxygen in a planet's atmosphere alone would be a strong indicator of life.
In the Earth's atmosphere, oxygen is a byproduct of photosynthesis, the process by which green plants and certain other organisms use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates.
Furthermore, oxygen molecules don't remain in the atmosphere, but combine with other molecular types in a process known as oxidation.
Therefore, a planet with an atmosphere rich in oxygen (like Earth) would imply a source to keep it replenished (life).
However, we know of non-biological processes that can also result in an oxygen-rich atmosphere. The runaway greenhouse effect on Venus is one example. A frozen, Mars-like planet big enough to hold its oxygen would be another.
So, the presence of oxygen alone -- while exciting and significant -- couldn't be taken as an unambiguous indicator of life. Furthermore, oxygen doesn't produced spectral lines that can be easily observed in the infrared. However, ozone, a form of oxygen, does.
The detection of ozone coexisting with a reduced gas such as nitrous oxide or methane could be taken as convincing evidence not only that a planet is habitable -- but that it may be inhabited.
Such large-scale clues can't tell us about the complexity of the discovered life; it could be either algae or a developed civilization. It is also possible that planets without oxygen could sustain life.
Photosynthesis might conceivably occur with another element, such as sulfur, playing the role of oxygen. In the search for life, we must control our preconceived assumptions of what it means to be living.
The findings of Terrestrial Planet Finder would guide a possible subsequent mission called Life Finder. Like its predecessor, Life Finder would consist of an array of telescopes flying in formation. The telescopes would combine infrared light to produce high-resolution spectra of the atmospheres of distant planets.
Scientists would use this information to search more closely for markers of biological activity, such as seasonal variations in the levels of methane and other gases, changes in atmospheric chemistry and spectral variations in the dominant biomass.
Originally posted by dragonbreath
With the billions and billions of planets out there I think it would be naive to think there is not life out there somewhere. Humans have painted and carved images of what appears to be alien beings for thousands of years.
Originally posted by daveyboy1991
Havent read it all yet, in abit of a rush but,
We can only see 1/10th of the visible universe, so even though we think there is only that habitable zone, there could be so much more...
Originally posted by Illustronic
This is a great thread and very informative on the actual techniques of detecting planets. We can't really see them, we can only detect their chemical compounds by inferring lots of different data.
Let me ask you elevenaugust if you have heard of the The Darwin Space Interferometer, and if your birthday is August 11th, mine is the 1st. Anyway, I understand the Darwin is to use solar orbital receivers of three and up to six to increase the focal length of visible light telescopes with extra visible light detection as well and send the data to a collector/assembler to transmit the data of an assembled image within and beyond the visible spectrum, to actually see the planets. Funding of the effort has ceased.
James Webb Telescope
I'm a little rusty on the technology since I read about it a while ago and didn't save links, but I understand the technique of linking data from telescopes around the world effectively magnifies detail somehow, there is a term for that.