This July 29, 2022, the famous place ofmentions that the noosphere discovered 5,121 since 51 Pegasi B, a discovery then made thanks to the Nobel Prizes of Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz. Futura recently interviewed now world famous, the French Jean Schneider.
The knowledge of the existence of these exoplanets is an extraordinary advance in the history ofHomo sapiens but it is still very partial because for the most part we only have estimatesand distances for these exoplanets, and a few rare spectra that provide a composition of the to shorten it.
Of course, we want pictures of the details of these exoplanets, especially if they are potential exo-Earths. Ideally, we would even like to detect biosignatures and even technosignatures there.
Thatrecently allocated new funds for the study of a spectacular project that could be carried out during the XXIe century for this purpose. The project itself is just in the cards, and there is no question of physically taking it on yet. This is a of a concept proposed in 1979 by a researcher from Stanford University, VR Eshleman: the gravitational sun.
Concretely, this means that you take advantage of the fact that the field ofof a celestial body deflects light rays like a lens and therefore provides a magnification factor to form images. By standing at a distance so it can be used as to form the image of an exoplanet with a record as if we had one much larger than those that can be built on Earth due to which deforms one under its own weight.
Scientists likefrom Jet Propulsion Laboratory as well as Alexander Madurowicz and from Stanford has therefore published it and in an article by for a few years already, where they have developed the concept.
A swarm of telescopes powered by solar sails
Currently, the general ideas on this topic are as follows:
Using directly, as with a telescope, a gravitational lens to form images of an exoplanet, however, we would have rather vague results. It is best to have several instruments flying in a swarm and each observing a part corresponding to a ring offor the solar lens, i.e. a deformation of the image of the exoplanet forming a ring, as in the case of certain observations of by means of strong gravitational lensing produced by a cluster of galaxies.
Concretely, this would require sending this swarm to distances between 548 and 900 times the distance from Earth to the Sun, which would make it possible to image exoplanets up to about 100of the Sun. No problem in theory therefore to observe the exoplanets around and e.g.
With a single instrument, the mirror of which would be about a meter in diameter, we could obtain images of the surface of these exoplanets with a resolution of the order of a few tens of kilometers.
However, there are several difficulties with this idea. With current propulsion technology, it would take about a century to send the instruments a good distance. At best, we could shorten the period to around 25-30 years, which is reasonable in comparisonthe life of a person involved in this project, using . The technology in these sails is not yet perfected, although it is reasonably close at hand.
Explanations of the latest concept for a mission to exploit the Sun’s gravitational lensing to image exoplanets. © The Aerospace Corporation