The TOLIMAN space telescope is a low-cost, agile mission concept dedicated to astrometric detection of exoplanets in the near-solar environment, particularly targeting the Alpha Centauri system. TOLIMAN stands for Telescope for Orbit Locus Interferometric Monitoring of our Astronomical Neighbourhood.
Astrometric detection involves precise measurement of stellar positions and is widely regarded as the leading concept presently ready to find earth-mass planets in temperate orbits around nearby sun-like stars. This telescopes mission concept is dedicated to narrow-angle astrometric monitoring of bright binary stars.
In particular, the mission will be optimized to search for habitable-zone planets around Alpha Centauri AB. If the separation between these two stars can be monitored with sufficient precision, tiny perturbations due to the gravitational tug from an unseen planet can be witnessed.
Alpha Centauri is a gravitationally bound system of the closest stars and exoplanets to our Solar System at 4.37 light-years from the Sun. Alpha Centauri A and B are Sun-like stars (Class G and K, respectively), and together they form the binary star Alpha Centauri AB.
and, given the configuration of the optical system, the scale of the shifts in the image plane is about one-millionth of a pixel. Image registration at this level of precision has never been demonstrated (to their knowledge) in any setting within science. Team member Peter Tuthill works at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy – one of the largest astrophysics groups in the country – serving as director from 2010-2015.
This is a COIN project, The Cosmostatistics Initiative is an international network that aims to create an interdisciplinary environment where collaborations between astronomers, statisticians, and machine learning experts can flourish. The group utilizes a management model which can find a parallel in technological start-ups: based on a dynamic, non-hierarchical, and people-centric approach.