Move over, James Webb: humanity is about to get another eye in the sky. There’s just been a new space telescope announced, named TOLIMAN, and it’s already got funding from the Breakthrough project.
The telescope is designed around two things: its target, and the exotic optics the telescope will use. TOLIMAN’s mission is to point directly at the Alpha Centauri system, in order to search for potentially habitable exoplanets there. The system actually contains three stars; Proxima Centauri (inside the red circle above) is confirmed to host a rocky planet in its Goldilocks zone, and there are likely several other planets elsewhere in the system.
The name TOLIMAN stands for “Telescope for Orbit Locus Interferometric Monitoring of our Astronomical Neighbourhood.” Clunky, we know. But the acronym was chosen in homage to the space telescope’s target star system. Toliman is the official name of a star within the Alpha Centauri system: α Centauri B, the smaller and cooler of the binary pair around which Proxima Centauri orbits.
The 30-cm telescope is surprisingly small, for a space telescope, but its target is Earth’s nearest neighboring star system: Alpha Centauri. Alpha Cen is the brightest star in the constellation Centaurus, visible in the southern sky, and it’s about 4.3 light-years from Earth.
The system was first documented by Arabic astronomers during the Golden Age of Islam. The word “Toliman” itself is the Latinized version of an ancient Arabic name for Alpha Centauri, which meant “the Ostriches.” But two other stars in the Southern sky already bore that name, so to bring the name of the new star into accord with the constellation in which it was found, it was later renamed Rijl al-Qinṭūrus. This in turn was Latinized to Rijel Kentaurus, “the Centaur’s foot,” which is where TOLIMAN is going to point.
TOLIMAN’s exotic optics are its other keystone feature. The telescope will use a “diffraction pupil lens” for its observations. Multiple overlaid structural patterns are arranged on the surface of the lens, so that the different areas separate incident light by its phase.
Because of this ability to distinguish separate sources, this design lends itself very well to studying Alpha Cen in particular. The system’s binary pair are only about 23 AU apart — about the distance from the Sun to Uranus. That means they have very little angular separation between them. Even so, the two stars can be clearly distinguished by the diffraction pupil design, because where they might overlap visually, using this lens means that different light sources stand out from one another in an obvious, kaleidoscopic way:
The international collaboration is led by Peter Tuthill of the Sydney Institute for Astronomy, and it includes teams from the University of Sydney, Breakthrough Initiatives, Saber Astronautics, and NASA’s JPL. Jason Held, CEO of Saber Astronautics, described TOLIMAN in a press release as “an exciting, bleeding-edge space telescope,” one that will be “supplied by an exceptional international collaboration. It will be a joy to fly this bird.”
Cyberpunked 2077: CDPR ‘Apologizes’ For Releasing Broken Game, Offers Refunds
Cyberpunk 2077's PS4 and Xbox One S version is so bad, the company is now offering refunds. We recommend last-gen console gamers take them up on it, rather than waiting.
Sony Pulls Cyberpunk 2077 and Offers Refunds; CDPR Misled Investors in October
Sony has announced that it will pull Cyberpunk 2077 from the PlayStation Store and award refunds to anyone who wants them. Meanwhile, events of the past week have proved CD Projekt Red misled investors as to the state of the game when it announced the last three-week delay in October 2020.
Sony Is Refusing Refunds for Cyberpunk 2077
The Cyberpunk 2077 team at CD Projekt Red has told gamers to seek refunds, but at least some PlayStation 4 players are being denied.