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Project Blue telescope
An artist’s conception shows a preliminary design for the Project Blue telescope. (Project Blue via Vimeo)

Project Blue is launching a second try to attract crowdfunding for a space telescope designed to study planets in the Alpha Centauri system, months after the first try fizzled.

This time around, the BoldlyGo Institute and its Project Blue partners – including the SETI Institute, the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and Mission Centaur – are aiming to raise a minimum of $175,000 through the Indiegogo crowdfunding website.

Whatever money they raise will go toward nailing down the requirements for the Project Blue mission and engaging with potential industry partners.

The mission’s objective is to look for potentially habitable planets around the Alpha Centauri double-star system. One planet already has been discovered in Alpha Centauri’s neighborhood, at Proxima Centauri, which is just 4.2 light-years away from us.

Proxima b was detected indirectly, by measuring the planet’s gravitational effect on its host star. In contrast, the Project Blue telescope would be built specifically for direct imaging of Earth-size planets.

The preliminary design takes advantage of a specialized coronagraph, a deformable mirror, low-order wavefront sensors and advanced software processing to enhance the images. Scientists might even be able to learn something about the composition of a planet and its atmosphere by close analysis of the imagery.

“We’re very excited to pursue such an impactful space mission and, as a privately funded effort, to include a global community of explorers and space science advocates in Project Blue from the beginning,” Jon Morse, CEO of BoldlyGo Institute, said in a news release.

NASA isn’t committing any funding to Project Blue, but the space agency recently signed a Space Act Agreement with BoldlyGo to cooperate on the project.

Last year, Project Blue’s organizers tried to raise $1 million in startup funds through Kickstarter, but the campaign was called off after only $335,597 was contributed. Under the rules governing the campaign, Project Blue got zilch.

This time, the organizers are going with a more flexible arrangement with Indiegogo that allows them to keep all of the contributed funds, even if the total falls short of the more modest $175,000 goal. More than $45,000 has been raised already.

If the effort is successful, Project Blue estimates it will take about $50 million to build the telescope, with launch set for 2021.

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