SANTIAGO – Chile’s Paranal Observatory is preparing for the debut of Espresso, a cutting-edge spectrograph that will aid in detection of small, Earth-like planets capable of sustaining life, astronomer Gaspare Lo Curto said on Friday.
Espresso – the Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations – is currently in the test phase and is expected to be fully operational by October, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) scientist said.
Finding planets with conditions similar to Earth is crucial to the goal of discovering extraterrestrial life, Lo Curto said.
One of the innovations of Espresso is the capacity to collect light simultaneously from all four Unit Telescopes of Paranal’s VLT (Very Large Telescope) array.
Espresso could be a milestone in astronomical observation, as it will allow scientists to detect exoplanets – planets orbiting stars other than the Sun – with unprecedented precision, making it easier to identify Earth-like planets.
The new instrument will permit scientists to obtain information about an exoplanet, such as whether the atmosphere contains oxygen, carbon dioxide and water, three elements that are necessary for life, Lo Curto said.