Astronomers at Stanford University are working on a new conceptual imaging technology that is 1,000 times more accurate than the most powerful imaging technology currently in use.
By harnessing the effect of gravity on spacetime, called a lens, Scientists can manipulate this phenomenon to create images that are more advanced than existing images. The goal is to overcome the physical limitations of telescopes.
In a research paper published in The Astrophysical Journal, researchers describe a way to manipulate solar gravitational lenses to see planets outside our solar system. By placing the telescope, the sun, and the exoplanet in line with the sun in the middle, scientists can use the sun’s gravitational field to increase the light from the exoplanet as it passes. Unlike a magnifying glass with a curved surface that deflects light, a gravitational lens has a curved space-time that allows images of distant objects to be taken.
Planets within a hundred light-years visible as Earth from the Moon
said Bruce McIntosh, professor of physics at the Stanford School of the Humanities and deputy director of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC). “With this technology, we hope to capture an image of a planet 100 light-years away that has the same effect as the Apollo 8 image of Earth,” he said in a statement.
The problem at the moment is that his proposed method would require more space travel than is currently available. However, the researchers said that the concept’s promise and what it could reveal about other planets makes it worthy of further study and development.
Gravitational lensing was not observed experimentally until 1919 during a solar eclipse. With the moon blocking the sun’s rays, scientists were able to see stars closer to the sun moving away from their known locations. This was unequivocal evidence that gravity can bend light and the first observational evidence that Einstein’s theory of relativity was correct.
Later, in 1979, Von Eshleman, a professor at Stanford University, published a detailed description of how astronomers and spacecraft exploit the solar gravitational lens. (Meanwhile, astronomers, including several at Stanford University’s KIPAC Institute, routinely use the strong gravitational pull of the largest massive galaxies to study the early evolution of the universe.)
But imaging technology for observing planets wasn’t explored in detail until 2020. Slava Turishev of the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory described a technique in which a space telescope could use rockets to scan light rays from a planet to reconstruct a clear image, but the technology requires a lot of fuel and weather. .
Based on the work of Turishchev, Alexander Madurovich, Ph.D. A KIPAC student has devised a new method that can reconstruct the surface of the planet from a single image taken by looking directly at the Sun. By capturing a ring of light around the Sun formed by an exoplanet, Madurovic’s algorithm can remove the distortion of light from the ring by reversing the curvature of a gravitational lens, which turns the ring back into a circular planet.
Madurovic demonstrated his work using images of the rotating Earth taken by the DSCOVR satellite, located between the Earth and the Sun. He then used a computer model to see what the Earth would look like by looking at the effects of the sun’s gravitational torsion. By applying his algorithm to the observations, Madurovic was able to recover images of the Earth and prove the correctness of his calculations.
To take a picture of an exoplanet through a solar gravitational lens, the telescope must be positioned at least 14 times further from the sun than Pluto, beyond the edge of our solar system, and farther than humans have seen. They sent a spaceship. But the distance is a fraction of light years between the Sun and an exoplanet.
“By detecting the light that the sun bends, you can create an image much farther than that of an ordinary telescope,” Madurovic said. “So the scientific potential is an untapped mystery because it opens up a new observational capability that doesn’t yet exist.”
Currently, to image an exoplanet with the accuracy that scientists describe, we will need a telescope twenty times larger than Earth. By using the Sun’s gravity as a telescope, scientists can exploit it as a massive natural lens. A Hubble-sized telescope in combination with a solar gravitational lens would be sufficient to image exoplanets with sufficient power to capture minute details.
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