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Space & Astronomy

NASA could use the Sun as a magnifying glass

By T.K. Randall
March 18, 2017 · Comment icon 12 comments

Gravitational lensing can help us magnify distant objects. Image Credit: NASA / Terry Virts
Scientists at JPL have come up with an ambitious new plan to get a better look at extrasolar planets.
Telescopes have come a long way over the last few decades and with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope it should be possible to get a better look at what's out there than ever before.

Not content with this however, researchers at JPL have come up with a novel new idea that could one day boost the capabilities of our telescopes exponentially.

The key lies in a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing which works due to the way light curves around massive objects in space - magnifying what lies behind them.
Astronomers have already been taking advantage of this effect for years, but now the team at JPL have come up with a plan to use our own star - the Sun - as a huge cosmic magnifying glass that could help us to see what lies on the surface of distant extrasolar worlds.

The idea is certainly ambitious, as in order to pull it off the observational instruments themselves would have to be situated so far from the Sun that they'd be in interstellar space.

If this could be achieved however, the researchers believe that such a setup could make it possible to acquire close-up views of the surface of a planet located over 100 light years away.

The possibilities for seeking out life on other worlds would be practically limitless.

Source: Engadget | Comments (12)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #3 Posted by EBE Hybrid 7 years ago
Sounds like a great reason to get the EM Drive operationalhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RF_resonant_cavity_thruster  
Comment icon #4 Posted by kartikg 7 years ago
v is there any update on the em drive? 
Comment icon #5 Posted by papageorge1 7 years ago
NASA could use the Sun as a magnifying glass          NASA? I already saw two ten-year olds do that and they fried a grasshopper on the sidewalk with it!
Comment icon #6 Posted by EBE Hybrid 7 years ago
It's been peer reviewed and China to be putting some real work into it, hopefully something practical will come of it before too long http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/news/300979/emdrive-space-engine-test-passes-peer-review http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/news/301857/china-is-testing-a-working-emdrive-in-space  
Comment icon #7 Posted by South Alabam 7 years ago
It's ideas like this that lead me to believe life elsewhere might be discovered by seeing, rather than hearing.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Sundew 7 years ago
Since most of the stars we see in the sky seem to have planets orbiting them, why not find two stars nearly in a line relative to the Earth and use the gravity of one to act as a lens on the second, more distant, system. For one thing, could you not do that with the Hubble? It would be a good way to test this theory without having to send a telescope outside our solar system which will take decades. You might not be able to examine some of the more "earth-like" worlds we have already discovered but it will be a good test and you never know what you might see. 
Comment icon #9 Posted by DieChecker 7 years ago
Once I thought about the idea, it seemed a fantastic good idea. 
Comment icon #10 Posted by DragonFire22 7 years ago
How does this work? ?? Video to explain please.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Sundew 7 years ago
I have no video, but the intense gravity of a galaxy warps space around it into a kind of lens, and if there is an object behind the lens from your point of view on the Earth, it allows you to see much farther away than you could without the lens. The sun, or any single star, can't match the gravitational lensing of an entire galaxy obviously, but it's the same principal on a smaller scale.  Google Gravitational Lensing and something will likely come up. 
Comment icon #12 Posted by Calibeliever 7 years ago
Oh, we should get started on this now!  great post, thanks.

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