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Exoplanets: Optimizing the Target List

1 May 2018, 16:12 UTC
Exoplanets: Optimizing the Target List NASA/Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

Avi Loeb’s always interesting work has recently taken us into the realm of target selection for exoplanet surveys. Where should we be putting our time and money in the search for life elsewhere, and what can we do to maximize both the credibility of the investigation and the funding that it demands? These sound like pedestrian matters compared to the excitement of discovery — finding Proxima b was a lot more exciting than watching any congressional committee debate over NASA’s priorities.

But Proxima Centauri b, that fascinating world around the nearest star, fits neatly into this narrative, for reasons that contrast nicely with its own nearest neighbors, Centauri A and B. The Centauri stars are an obvious target, and one that Loeb has devoted considerable time to assessing, given his deep involvement with Breakthrough Starshot’s study of a mission there. If we find planets around Centauri A or B, are they our priority? Just where does Proxima b fit in?

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