With $2M in Kickstarter funds, asteroid-mining company’s public telescope could find alien planets

planetaryresourcesaliensIt ain’t Kepler, but an upgrade to Planetary Resources’ crowdfunded public telescope could hunt for alien planets.

planetaryarkydThe Bellevue-based asteroid-mining company announced new Kickstarter stretch goals in its campaign to produce the world’s first crowdfunded, public use space telescope.

After two weeks, funding sits about $140,000 shy of the original $1 million goal. With 19 days to go, that will likely be eclipsed, but Planetary has other ideas past that.

If funding reaches $2 million, the company will enable its Arkyd-100 telescope the ability to search for extrasolar planets, or “exoplanets” — in other words, alien worlds. The add-ons would improve the telescope’s stability systems and allow for exoplanet transit detection capability.

The Arkyd would use two methods to do this: Transiting, which detects new planets by seeing a star’s brightness dim when a planet passes in front of it, or gravitational microlensing, a term used for when gravity from a planet distorts light waves from the stars behind it.

“While the Arkyd won’t rival NASA’s $600 million Kepler spacecraft, which may have to end its mission due to a recent equipment failure, the enhanced Arkyd will be a huge step toward important new scientific discoveries enabled by citizen scientists,” said Planetary President Chris Lewicki in a press release.

Planetary also has a stretch goal of $1.3 million, and if met, the company will build a ground station that would double the download speed of data exchange for photos taken by the telescope.

Check out the Kickstarter page for more info.

Previously on GeekWire: Q&A: Bill Nye on Superman’s beard, space, education and a possible ‘Science Guy’ return