Have you ever wondered what exoplanets, those celestial bodies (some even "livable“) Outside our solar system?
We have seen countless performances by artists, of course. But imagine what it would be like to see the real planet, its colors, its atmosphere, its continents, even its vegetation.
NASA announced this week that it is funding research for this effort. The concept of a telescope called solar gravitational lens (SGL) it would allow us to observe, with surprising resolution, alien worlds even very distant.
The goal of the project, according to the description of NASA, it is "Directly observe one of the many Earth-like exoplanets" with a resolution of about 25 km, that is “Enough to see the characteristics of the surface and the signs of habitability”.
The new announcement of an SGL follows Phase I and II funding from the NIAC program (NASC).
How the SGL telescope works
Slava Turyshev, a physicist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory who wrote and studied this technology, describes how an SGL works:
In the strong SGL interference region, this light is greatly amplified, forming the Einstein ring around the Sun, which represents a distorted image of the extended source.Slava Turyshev
We will see the stars up close
This isn't NASA's only large-scale astronomical effort that could produce incredible new data on alien worlds.
When the James Webb Space Telescope, will be launched in 2021, will be able to see planets (high contrast, medium infrared ray) which are 10 to 100 million times weaker than we can currently imagine. Webb will also study the atmospheres of these planets and look for traces of oxygen and other “technological signatures” of any civilization, such as traces of industrial gases.
The remaining technological obstacle is how to transport a “meter-class telescope with a solar coronagrafo”At a great distance from the sun.
Slava Turyshev suggested that the solution could be to implement a "swarm" of tiny aircraft powered by solar sails capable of simultaneously representing "multiple planets / moons of an exosolar system".
It may be many years before we start receiving data and images from these projects, but it is exciting to know that in our life we will likely see the "surface features" of alien exoplanets and be able to observe their forests, or whatever.