Is there life on other planets? According to a new study, it should at least be possible to search for it with a very advanced lens that uses the Sun’s gravity to be able to take pictures over astronomical distances. Writes vice.
In 2020, NASA stepped in to fund an investigation into whether it was possible to create a camera lens that could, with the help of the Sun’s gravity, take pictures of exoplanets with good resolution. Exoplanets are a term for planets that orbit stars other than the Sun.
The technology referred to as a “solar gravitational lensing” (SGL) is supposed to work in such a way that it uses the sun’s gravity to bend spacetime. This curved spacetime should be able to magnify what’s behind the sun, in this case the outer planets.
SGL offers capabilities beyond all other planned or existing visual tools, it says Research Report To which, among others, NASA researcher Slava Turishchev contributed.
Thanks to its unique optical properties, SGL can be used to obtain detailed, high-resolution images of Earth-like exoplanets within a hundred light-years of Earth.
The research team is led by Senior Scientist Henry Helvagin at the Aerospace Corporation.
A research team that took a closer look at whether such cutting-edge technology could be developed suggests that humanity must overcome major technical challenges in order to succeed. They believe that technology can provide answers to one of humanity’s fundamental questions, whether we are alone in the universe.
According to the researchers, it will not only require solving the technical challenges associated with the lens. The lens also relies on flight technology that can take it far enough into space. On top of all that, researchers estimate that it will take at least 25 to 30 years for a spacecraft with a lens to reach the desired position in space, according to vice.
However, the long wait can end in amazing discoveries.
High-resolution images of an exoplanet taken with SGL can provide insight into the biological processes going on on exoplanets and find signs of habitability, the report states.
The technology on which the carrier spacecraft depends is solar sails, navigation systems, and communications that are more reliable than humanity has today.
NASA has released new images
Earlier this month, NASA released a series of images taken by the powerful James Webb Space Telescope. Of course, James Webb does not use SGL technology, but according to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, it will help us better understand the universe and humanity’s place in it.
Here is a selection of images taken with the James Webb Space Telescope:
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