Technology

The astronomer proposed to turn the Earth into a giant telescope. How and most importantly why?

Historically, with the increaseThe sizes of telescopes that astronomers use to search for and observe distant galaxies, stars and planets grew exponentially and the cost of their creation. The diameter of modern ground-based telescopes reaches 30 and even 40 meters. The construction of these facilities cost hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars. Progress does not stand still and soon we will have ground-based telescopes of even larger size. And it is clear that their creation will require even greater investments. For example, the construction of a 100-meter telescope will cost $ 35 billion. It is very expensive. However, according to American astrophysicist David Kipping of Columbia University, we can solve this problem.

Not only ground vehicles are growing in size,used in observatories, but also space telescopes, notes Kipping. Take at least the same "James Webb", which everyone does not finish building. But it has already spent more than 10 billion dollars. Its launch has already been postponed many times, each time inflating the budget.

Also interesting: NASA's new space telescope will be 100 times more efficient than Hubble

According to Kipping, to build large land andspace telescopes are not necessary at all. After all, the Earth itself can be turned into a giant telescope. The idea of ​​a new instrument that he proposed is called a terracoscope. According to the author’s calculations published on arXiv.org, this terracoscope can be much more effective than all the existing ground and space telescopes by thousands of times and at the same time will cost significantly less money in construction.

Content

  • 1 How is light refracted?
  • 2 How to build the largest telescope?
  • 3 What is the efficiency of a telescope the size of the Earth
  • 4 Disadvantages of the idea of ​​a planetary lens

How is the light refracted?

That the emitted light of space objectscapable of refracting (changing its direction) under the influence of a source of very powerful gravity (stars, black holes, galaxies, galactic clusters, etc.), scientists learned at the beginning of the last century. This effect is called the gravitational lens. The phenomenon is very similar to how a conventional lens bends the direction of movement of the rays of light, hence the name. Modern astronomers often resort to using the method of gravitational lensing. After all, it allows you to detect objects at very large distances located behind the gravitational lens, which cannot be detected by conventional methods of observation. Even 30 years ago, David Kipping proved that gravity is not the only source of light refraction.

How to build the largest telescope?

Dense can change the direction of lightthe planet’s atmosphere, like our Earth, says Kipping. This can be used to turn the Earth into a planetary lens. Getting into the upper atmosphere of our planet, the light of a conventional star or galaxy can be refracted at a small angle and not sink to the surface, but can pass further in space, focusing at a certain point in the space region. Kipping calculated exactly how it is refracted, where exactly this light is focused and told how to use it.


Schematic representation of the refraction of light rays around the Earth

The light of distant stars passing through the atmosphereEarth is refracted at an angle of just one degree relative to its surface. One degree sounds a bit. But this allows you to focus the light to a point in outer space located at a distance of about four distances between the Earth and the Moon, the astrophysicist explains.

Kipping suggests placing in this placefocusing light a small spacecraft - that same terracoscope. It will play the role of a detector of light waves refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere. According to astrophysicists, the use of a terrascope will not only allow you to move away from the need to spend a lot of money on the construction of large telescopes, but it will also be very beneficial from a scientific point of view.

What is the efficiency of a telescope the size of the Earth

According to the scientist’s calculations, if you placeIf the Hubble Space Telescope is the size of a telescope (2.4 meters) at the optimum point in the orbit of our planet, it can be turned into an analogue of a ground or space telescope, whose resolution will be increased by 22.5-45 thousand.

According to Kipping, a telescope of such powerIt will allow astronomers not only to observe the most distant galaxies and stars, but also to study planets orbiting alien stars, as well as their moons, in details (up to searching for signs of life).

The disadvantages of the idea of ​​a planetary lens

The scientist admits that in his idea there areflaws and many unresolved points. In the end, this is just a concept. For example, Kipping agrees that a planetary lens will not transmit all types of infrared and visible light to the detector. Part of them will be absorbed by the clouds and the water molecules contained in them, as well as dust and other particles. In addition, the rays of light of our Sun can affect the accuracy of observations.


Artistic representation of a spacecraft to be used as a light wave detector

For a partial solution to the problem, he proposesplace the light wave detector in the place where the boundary of the Earth's gravity is located. In this case, it will be possible to observe the light waves that will be refracted in the atmosphere of the planet at an altitude of about 14 kilometers. At this altitude, most of such interference can be avoided. According to Kipping, the level of loss of light waves of stars entering the telescope in this case will be only about 8 percent.

See also: The future of space telescopes

In addition, the astrophysicist notes that he conductedtheir calculations are only for optical and infrared terrascopes. If you create an apparatus that will work only with radio waves, then the clouds and other types of interference for him will no longer pose any problem.

Another drawback of the terracoscope, says the authorideas, is the limitation of simultaneous observations. With the help of a terracoscope, it will be possible to observe the light of stars that will be at one time or another behind our planet. It will be possible to solve the problem by using several compact space-based light wave detectors located around the planet.

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