There’s a lot of talk about the James Webb telescope, but what if we told you there is a new device that can capture extraterrestrial worlds floating outside our solar system with incredible clarity? On Tuesday, a team of Stanford researchers published in the Journal of Astrophysics the concept of a future telescope that will revolutionize the way we explore space beyond our solar system.
Using Sun to examine faraway worlds
It’s called a “gravity telescope,” and it will use the Sun to survey distant worlds previously inaccessible to astronomers on Earth.
“We wanted to take pictures of planets orbiting other stars that were just as beautiful as the pictures we could make planets in our own solar-system,” said Bruce Macintosh, a professor of physics at the School of Humanities & Science at Stanford & Deputy Director of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Space (KIPAC).
“With this technology, we hope to be able to capture an image of a planet 100 light-years away that has the same impact as the Earth image from Apollo 8.”
How would new telescope capture such images? Through a process known as gravitational lensing it was first observed in 1919 during a solar eclipse. At that time, the moon obscured light from sun, allowing scientists to see stars near the sun off-set from their known positions.
However, it was not until 1979 that Von Eshleman, a Stanford professor, revealed the process by which astronomers could exploit solar gravitational lensing. In 2020, the imaging technique was developed to observe the planets by Slava Turyshev of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
New and vastly improved method
Now, Alexander Madurowicz, a PhD student at KIPAC, has been inspired by Turyshev’s work to invent a new method capable of reconstructing the planet’s surface from a single image taken by looking directly at the sun.
“By unbending light bent by the sun, an image can be created far beyond that of ordinary telescope,” said Madurowicz. “So the scientific potential is an untapped mystery because it opens up this new observational possibility that doesn’t exist yet.”
Now, if the team of researchers can get to-gether funding & technology to further develop this technique, it will open a world of imaging possibilities for distant planets that until recently could not be possible to view and for the process of evaluating life on other planets.
Macintosh concludes: “This is one of the final steps to finding out if there is life on other planets. “Take a picture of another planet, you can look at it and you can see the green swatchess are forests and the blue spots are oceans – with that it’s hard to argue that.” there is no life.”