The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile will be modified in order to allow it to search more effectively for potentially habitable planets in Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to Earth. The ESO said it has signed a deal with Breakthrough Starshot, a venture that aims to deploy thousands of tiny spacecraft to travel to the system and send back pictures. Starshot, which is backed by internet billionaire Yuri Milner and physicist Stephen Hawking, will provide funding to allow equipment on the Very Large Telescope that studies in the mid-infrared to be adapted to better detect faint planets, the ESO said in a statement on Monday. The adaption will have the effect of reducing bright stellar light that drowns out relatively dim planets, improving the chances of finding them, it said.

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