New Kickstarter Campaign: Sept 5, 2017 – Oct 8, 2017


The ExoLife Finder (ELF) Telescope will be the world’s first dedicated telescope capable of imaging, oceans, continents, and life on nearby exoplanets. Show your support by getting a limited edition scale model of ELF which helps us develop the next stage of our mirror technologies.

ELF Proposed Location: Atacama Desert, Chile
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Our Vision


The PLANETS Foundation wants to excite, educate and engage you in a direct optical search for life outside of the solar system. We invite you to participate in our program that culminates with an exolife “census” of the nearest 100 exoplanets. Learn more now, by joining us in weekly online conversations with the scientists and engineers who are talking about the latest exoplanet news, and technologies that will see the exolife ecology within 30 light years of the Earth. Also, browse our on-line collection of talks, papers, and images.

Who We Are


PLANETS Foundation - Founding MembersThe PLANETS organization was started by a small international group of academic scientists. It now includes members from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and the US — and we’re halfway built, and $2.5M spent toward the PLANETS telescope. In 24 months this will be the first demonstration instrument on a path to the ExoLife Finder (ELF), and the Colossus Telescopes — optical instruments powerful enough to reveal continents on Proxima B, and finally, the heat signatures of advanced life on several hundred exoplanets. The PLANETS Foundation was formed this year with the mission of advocating and accelerating exolife studies while engaging public members and any interested citizen scientists.
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Our 10-Year Technology Roadmap



Our 10-year roadmap starts with new ideas that will make telescope-like instruments that are lighter and much less costly than the Keck-era large telescopes that astronomers need for seeing, for example, distant galaxies. You can read about these technologies in more detail in these web pages and in our published papers.

Our first step down this path is what we call the “PLANETS” telescope — an acronym that stands for “Polarized Light from Atmospheres of Nearby ExtraTerrestrial Systems.” While this instrument is unlikely to find “exo-life” it is a test of “low scattered light off-axis optics” and “thin mirror technology.” It will become a building block of the much larger Colossus project.

The PLANETS telescope mirror is 90% polished and the mechanical designs for its unusual structural, off-axis components are waiting to be built. So far, it has been funded by academic University groups like the Tohoku University (Japan), the Institute for Astronomy (Hawaii), and the Kiepenheuer Institute (Germany). It could be completed in less than two years with funding to finish the dome and building structure.

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