A new revolutionary telescope is in the works that would lessen the cost of studying exoplanets, but it needs more funding to come to fruition.
Enter the ExoLife Finder (ELF) telescope from The PLANETS Foundation, which will be capable of viewing exoplanets 24 light years (120 trillion miles) away from Earth, detecting the energy signatures of life, and imaging oceans and continents. So far we've only been able to estimate the likelihood of oceans and continents' presence, which is still hypothetical. This easily goes far beyond the aspirations of any other exoplanet-hunting telescope yet in service, and could thus move our search for life out there a few terms further in the Drake Equation.
After ELF's construction, its first target will be Proxima b, an exoplanet in the Proxima Centauri star system discovered last year by the European Space Observatory — the Alpha Centauri A and B star systems will also be investigated for other Earth-like planets.
ELF isn't the first telescope The PLANETS Foundation has worked on. There's the Colossus telescope — set to be the world's largest optical and infrared telescope designed to detect extrasolar and extraterrestrial life; then there's the PLANETS telescope — a telescope designed to study faint environments such as the atmosphere of bright exoplanets, bio-signatures on potentially habitable exoplanets, and exo-atmospheres of planets in our solar system.
The ExoLife Finder telescope has 19 days remaining before its fundraising campaign ends. Should it meet its goal, it will be built in the Atacama Desert in Chile alongside the Colossus. The PLANETS telescope, meanwhile, will be built atop the Haleakala volcano in Maui, Hawaii.