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Canary Island telescopes to search for life on seven 'new' planets found this week
By thinkSPAIN Team Fri, Feb 24, 2017
CANARY Island-based telescopes will be used to find out more about the seven 'mini-Earths' discovered this week – a cluster of planets 40 light years away with water, oxygen and other conditions conducive to housing life.
The Great Canarian Telescope on the island of La Palma – the biggest of its kind on earth, set up nearly a decade ago and with a 10-metre primary mirror – is one of a dozen world-class telescopes in the region.
But it was the robot telescope Liverpool, and the William Herschel, which were part of the system used by NASA when it found the seven Earth-like planets, and which will be used to examine them further.
The Liverpool, which works with visible wave and close infrared ranges, was built thanks to an investment by the John Moore University in the north-western English city and by the Greenwich Royal Observatory in London.
One of the largest robot telescopes and among the most technologically-advanced in the world, the Liverpool was set up in La Palma in 2003 and started its first scientific space observations in April 2004.
It is very sensitive to small fluctuations in light, flexible, completely automated and fast, making it ideal for discovering planets, said Chris Copperwheat, one of the team which found the new planetary system.
The William Herschel forms part of the Isaac Newton Telescope Group, which includes the Isaac Newton telescope itself and the Jacobus Kapteyn, and is one of the most versatile, advanced and scientifically-productive on Earth, according to the Canarian Astrophysics Institute.
The Isaac Newton Telescope Group is based at the observatory in Roque de los Muchachos in La Palma.
The William Herschel is operated and owned jointly by the Physics and Particles of Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) in the UK, the Canarian Astrophysics Institute and the Dutch Scientific Research Organisation (NWO), and has enabled scientists to discover some of the most distant objects ever observed in space, including galaxies of equally-weak visibility to those seen by Hubble but with a field of vision 10 times the size.
Both will be key in trying to find out whether there is indeed life on the seven 'new' planets, and what form it takes.
Photograph by the Canarian Institute of Astrophysics (IAC)
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