Our PLANETS Foundation members believe there are existential questions we can answer that will create a new era in exoplanetary studies. This new phase is all about imagining, developing, and using new technologies that have the reach to find biomarkers (possibly civilization biomarkers) on the stars in our neighborhood of the galaxy. This is a several year effort, but we have an international team of scientists, engineers, and energetic volunteers that are committing their personal resources to this vision.
Our roadmap takes us to major new facilities that have the “reach” to see advanced Earth-like life on a few hundred planets around the nearest few hundred stars. It starts with new telescope ideas like the PLANETS telescope (which is 50% completed) and ends with a novel post Keck-era telescope project we call Colossus. We welcome you to join us as we build an international team of scientists and enabling enthusiasts to make this happen.
Complete the PLANETS TelescopeThe PLANETS Telescope is 50% complete and only need to raise an additional $600,000 USD to finish the project! PLANETS is an acronym for Polarized Light from Atmospheres of Nearby ExtraTerrestrial Systems and is fundamental in the search for extraterrestrial life. Once built it will be the world’s largest off-axis telescope (1.85 m) for night-time astrophysics and planetary science.
Optimized to study faint environments around bright sources, the instrument suite will provide opportunities to investigate these environments using tools of polarimetry, spectropolarimetry, and coronagraphy.
The PLANETS Telescope is a pathfinder project for hyper-telescopes dedicated to finding life and civilizations on planets around stars in our neighborhood. Its off-axis design is prototypical for the 74m telescope Colossus to be made of 60 8m off-axis telescopes.
- Exoatmospheres of terrestrial planets in the Solar system,
- Atmospheres and surfaces of nearby bright exoplanets,
- Circumstellar environment and protoplanets in circumstellar disks,
- Biosignatures on potentially habitable exoplanets (path-finder).
The PLANETS Telescope has been awarded multiple research grants and financial support from organizations like: Tohoku University; Institute for Astronomy; Kiepenheuer Institute; University of Ponta Grossa; UNAM (Mexico)
Tohoku University: Mirror Blank, Polishing, Mirror Cell Design, Infrared Spectrograph
Kiepenheuer Institute: Telescope Optical Support Structure Design,Environmental Studies
Institute for Astronomy: Optical Design, Site Preparation, Management
UNAM (Mexico): Mirror Polishing Support
SearchLight Observatory: Building Renovation
Kiepenheuer Institute: Telescope Structure Fabrication, Polarimeter
Tohoku University: Mirror Cell Fabrication
Institute for Astronomy: Software control system and Imager
University of Ponta Grossa: Post focus instrumentation, Telescope structure fabrication
Seeking Support For
Final mirror polishing
Build the ExoLife Finder TelescopeThe ExoLife Finder (ELF) telescope is a "Colossus-lite". ELF is formed from a circular array of 5-8m subapertures. It uses the thin "printed-mirror" technology the Colossus telescope depends on, and image-domain phasing of each off-axis parabolic segment to create a single diffraction-limited image. ELF has a total diameter of about 40m and is large enough to begin a dedicated program of Rotational ExoPlanet Imaging. ELF will create surface maps of the nearest exoplanets.
Build the Colossus Telescope
The Colossus consists of 60 independent off-axis 8m telescopes which effectively merge telescope-interferometry concepts, yielding 74m diameter effective resolution. The primary consists of 60x8m off-axis parabolic primaries. The secondary structure is less than 5m in diameter with 60 independent 0.5m optics. Thus, every primary is served by its own secondary which bring light into one Gregorian focus.
Each secondary mirror is illuminated by one primary mirror segment and becomes its steering and phasing element. In this way each beam is combined coherently at the Gregorian focus of the larger, two-axis tracking, primary parent optics without interferometer delay-lines. This optical system achieves the full angular resolution of the parent while efficiently matching the “softness” of the mechanical structure to the atmospheric piston phase fluctuations.
Dr. Svetlana BerdyuginaSvetlana Berdyugina is an exoplanetary and astrobiology researcher and physics professor. Svetlana and her team were the first to see reflected light and a blue color of a planet outside the solar system, a paradigm-exploding discovery in exoplanetary research. While employing quantum effects in various molecules, she pioneered and established several innovative research lines in astrophysics, which led to discoveries of new phenomena. Her breadth, vision and fearless attitude toward research set her on the path to search for signs of life on other planets while investigating colorful bacteria and plants of Hawai‘i.
Dr. Marcelo EmilioDr. Marcelo Emilio is an astronomer and professor from Ponta Grossa State University in Brazil. During his PhD he worked with The Michelson Doppler Imager on-board the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory satellite measuring the size and shape of the Sun. With the CoROT satellite measurements he investigated mass ejection episodes in Be stars. He is one of the discovers of the first ring around an asteroid (Chariklo) and with collaborators was the one to first use measurements of planetary transits from space to measure the size of the sun. He is currently working with measurements of the Sun from Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager instrument on-board the Solar Dynamics Observatory, exoplanets and astronomy education.
Dr. Jeff KuhnDr. Kuhn is a physicist and astronomer, having received his physics PhD from Princeton in 1981. He helped found the Advanced Technology Research Center of the Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii on Maui in 2003 and was its director until 2012. As a researcher he's generated about $14M of federal research grants over the last decade and published more than 200 papers. His innovative optical research has contributed to telescopes now under construction, like the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (for which he is a principal co-investigator). His scientific work has been recognized with an International Senior Humboldt Prize (from Germany) and international research fellowships from Japan, Switzerland, Germany, and France. He serves as an advisor for diverse organizations ranging from the BreakThrough Starshot and Watch committees to advisory Boards for NASA and university programs. He leads the PLANETS consortium.
Dr. Maud LangloisDr. Maud Langlois is an expert in extreme adaptive optics and the instrument scientist of the IR dual imaging and spectrograph for the spectro-polarimetric high-contrast exoplanet system (SPHERE) on the Very Large Telescope (VLT), which is used for direct detection of exoplanets. She has conceived, developed, integrated, and tested (on-sky) several innovative astronomical instruments for the VLT, Gemini telescope, Large Binocular Telescope, Multiple Mirror Telescope, as well as multi-conjugate adaptive optics systems for solar telescopes.
Dr. Gil MorettoDr. Gil Moretto is an expert in high-resolution and high-dynamic range astronomical instrumentation. He has contributed to the development of the Southern Astrophysical Research telescope, DKIST, NST, and High Dynamic Range Telescope. He currently works on novel optical designs, 3D printable optical technologies, co-phasing strategies, and adaptive optics concepts for extremely large telescopes and Antarctica-based astronomy.
Dr. Shoichi OkanoDr. Shoichi Okano started his career as a scientist by viewing a red planet, Mars, through a tiny (diameter 4 cm) telescope in 1956 when he was 9 years old, that made him feel excited to see other worlds on the sky. In his early stage of research, he was involved in the field of the earth’s upper atmosphere like observations of terrestrial airglow and aurora, as well as the ozone layer. Dr. Okano is the first to observe height profiles of ozone in the stratosphere from the ground with laser heterodyne spectroscopy. He wintered over at Japanese Syowa Station in Antarctica for aurora observation.
Dr. Okano started observation of planetary atmospheres at Haleakala in the year 2000. He sympathized with Dr. Jeff Kuhn’s idea of PLANETS telescope and initiated collaboration with the IfA and the University of Hawaii by the first official funding for the optics of PLANETS telescope. After his retirement from Tohoku University in 2012, he moved to Maui to complete a 60cm telescope moving the project from Tohoku University’s Iitate observatory, which has been contaminated with radiation by the accident of nuclear reactor in March 2011, to Haleakala summit. After completion of the telescope moving project, Dr. Okano returned to Japan in 2015 and is still devoting himself to promote the PLANETS telescope project.
Dr. Joe RitterDr. Joe Ritter began his career performing imaging inside cells, Birth defects research, Biochemistry, Artificial Intelligence and Genetics. At the University of California San Diego Center for Astrophysics and Space Science, he was Associate Development Engineer for novel space plasma flight hardware, and worked on the first Hubble space telescope service mission. Joe was the Associate Research Scientist in Space Systems Engineering at the Florida Space Institute, Team Lead of Advanced Optical Systems Development in the Advanced Concepts group at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. On Maui he was Director of Optical Systems R&D for SAIC Reconnaissance Surveillance Operations.
Currently Joe is a fellow of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program (NIAC) and Laboratory Director and Physicist at the IFA Advanced Technology Research Center on Maui.
Dr. Takeshi SakanoiDr. Sakanoi received his Ph.D. from Tohoku University, where he is also currently employed as an associate professor of the Planetary Plasma and Atmospheric Research Center, Graduate School of Science. Dr. Sakanoi specializes in determining the variations in planetary atmospheres, such as Jovian aurora and Venusian clouds by obtaining continuous monitoring data with the T60 and T40 telescopes at Haleakala summit. He also has developed many optical and infrared instruments such as the ground-based auroral imager and spectrometer and infrared Echelle spectrometer. He is a true expert in his profession and is referenced in a total of 66 academic papers.
Dr. Isabelle SchollDr. Isabelle Scholl is a Computer Science Engineer and an Astronomer.She received her Master’s in Computer Science from the CNAM/Strasbourg and her PhD in Astrophysics and Space Techniques from the University Paris XI.After working as a Research Engineer at the CNRS (Orsay, France) as the technical manager of the European operations and data center for the SOHO mission, she has held positions as Assistant Professor at the International Space University (Strasbourg, France) and the Institute for Astronomy (Honolulu, Hawaii).
She is now working at IfA/Maui as a Project Manager and software lead for the CryoNIRSP project; a Cryogenic Near-IR Spectropolarimeter that will be a first-light instrument of the DKIST telescope atop Haleakala, Maui.