Planet search moves to Antarctica

Aug. 29, 2012 at 7:31 PM

BEIJING, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Chinese astronomers say they are using survey instruments in Antarctica to search actively for Earth-like planets that may sustain life.

The installed the first of three Antarctic Survey Telescopes at Dome Argus, located at the highest elevation on the Antarctic continent, at the beginning of the year, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

They use satellite phones to give orders to and receive data from their unmanned survey instruments in the harsh environment but can only receive limited amounts of data over the link.

"We will send people there to retrieve observation data next spring. I hope we can find some likely candidates. It's hard to say precisely how many, but I hope there are no less than 10," Wang Lifan, a director of the Chinese Center for Antarctic Astronomy, said.

"Such planets likely exist in the Milky Way, with a possible distance of thousands of light years from us," he said.

Chinese scientists are also planning to set up an Antarctic observatory to further boost their research and broaden the search for habitable planets.

"Antarctica has the best conditions on Earth for astronomical observation, as it has very flat ground, a transparent atmosphere and little turbulence," Wang said. "The ground-based telescopes here will bring us precious information from the universe."

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