Direct Multipixel Images of an Exo-Earth with a Solar Gravitational Lens Telescope

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S. G. Turyshev (2018), JBIS, 71, pp.361-368

Refcode: 2018.71.361
Keywords: Solar gravitational lens, Direct imaging of exoplanets

Nature offers a powerful instrument that has yet to be explored. It is the Solar Gravitational Lens (SGL): the gravitational field of the Sun, which has the ability to bend and focus light similar to a lens. In the foreseeable future, a small telescope (1-2 m) could operate on the focal line of the SGL at distances between 600–800 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun, to provide high-resolution images of a distant exoplanet. This instrument could deliver thousand-by-thousand-pixel images of “Earth 2.0” at distances of up to 100 light years (ly) and with a spatial resolution of ~10 km on its surface--sufficient to discern surface features such as continents. Although theoretically feasible, the engineering aspects of building an astronomical telescope that is designed to operate at such a large distance from Earth have not been addressed before. - The question of getting there and the issues of operating a spacecraft at such enormous distances with the required precision will be addressed. Aspects of concept design and spacecraft requirements for a mission to the distant regions of the outer solar system will be discussed. This step is a necessary precursor to any future robotic missions to another star.

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