Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Life-seeking telescopes, scuba arms, and more

At any given moment, there are approximately a zillion crowdfunding campaigns on the web. Take a stroll through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find no shortage of weird, useless, and downright stupid projects out there — alongside some real gems. In this column, we cut through all the worthless wearables and Oculus Rift ripoffs to round up the week’s most unusual, ambitious, and exciting projects. But don’t grab your wallet just yet. Keep in mind that any crowdfunded project can fail — even the most well-intentioned. Do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

PLANETS Telescope — exoplanet observation telescope

The PLANETS Foundation believes that we can find life outside of the solar system within a decade. How? By closely examining exoplanets orbiting nearby stars. The problem is we don’t currently have the observation technologies necessary to begin the search — but that might soon change.

Years ago, the PLANETS (Polarized Light from Atmospheres of Near Extra Terrestrial Systems) Foundation embarked on a mission to build a sophisticated new telescope that could do the job. Now the project is nearing completion, and the foundation has turned to Kickstarter to help fund the final polishing stage of the PLANETS telescope mirror.

Currently under construction, the PLANETS telescope will be the world’s largest off-axis telescope (1.85 meters) for exoplanetary science. The telescope site is located on Haleakala, a 3,048m (10,000ft) volcano on the island of Maui, Hawaii, one of the world’s best astronomical sites.

Scheduled to be completed by 2019, the PLANETS telescope is a pathfinder project for even more sophisticated telescopes capable of seeking out and characterizing life on nearby exoplanets. Pledge your support and you could potentially fund the discovery of alien life!

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