Millions of Telescopes 4 Light Days From Earth Could Permanently Explore Other Solar Systems

If we send telescopes out to 4 light days we can use the gravity of the sun to amplify the power of telescopes by 100 billion times. Although we can build larger telescopes with higher resolution than exists today near to Earth, the telescopes that are sent out to gravitational lensing regions would resolve much faster. In some cases, it would take millions of years or more to resolve an image while the gravitational lens telescope could resolve in weeks.

The resolution amplification out at the gravitational lens would be mammoth compared to large telescopes near to Earth. There is a need for both. Having 100 meter or multi-kilometer telescopes on the moon or at LaGrange points would be useful for lower resolution scanning of other solar systems. The resolution could still be hundreds of times beyond the capabilities of our best existing telescopes.

For the next decade or two, the challenge will be to get a single one-meter telescope out to the right spot. The right spot is a very thin line on the opposite side of the sun to the exoplanet or target imaging object. The best lensing areas are out at 650 times further than the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

The first missions will probably be laser pushed solar sails or solar sails that slingshot around the sun. These would try to reach the gravitational lens area in about ten to twenty years. They would need to get to twenty times the speed of the Voyager spacecraft. They would travel along the optimal line for looking at another solar system.

There are about 14,000 solar systems within 100 light-years and 250,000 solar systems within 250 light-years.

The ideal situation would be to improve propulsion so that the telescopes could get to 4+ light days from Earth and then slow down and stay in the optimal observation areas. We should then mass produce telescopes dedicated for each solar system. We should even have many telescopes along the optimal sightline so that various parts of the target solar system can stay under constant observation and exploration. Each set of telescopes would like probes of the other solar system. There should be at least one telescope for each planet and some for the moons and other objects of the other solar systems.

14,000 solar systems with 100 dedicated telescopes for each solar system would be 1.4 million telescopes.
250,000 solar systems with 1000 dedicated telescopes for each solar system would be 250 million telescopes.

A mothership could carry the hundred or thousand telescopes to the specific gravitational lens line and then offload the 100 or thousands of telescopes.

The telescopes would gather megapixel images of everything in the target solar system. We would be able to watch the weather and measure the atmosphere of the exoplanets and objects.

Telescopes staying along lines in the 4 lightday to 20 light day zones would be like we had probes in other solar systems. But this would 1000 times closer and 1 million times easier in terms of energy costs and economics for each. This is space exploration that we could achieve starting around the 2040s and we could scale to the target levels by 2080.

There would be no need for starshades. The focal line for the stars would be thousands of miles away. There would only be the need for coronagraphs to blot out our own sun. The images would have to be reconstructed from the Einstein ring created by the gravity of our sun.

A large 1300 meter telescope at the gravitational lens lines would be able to image an entire exoplanet with one image. A one-meter telescope would have to piece other a full exoplanet over months or years of observations.

If tens of megawatt laser arrays beamed power to sails powering lithium-ion drives, then the spacecraft could maneuver and decelerate to hold positions on the lensing lines.

This would be about 1000 times closer than actually sending probes to the other solar systems. It would take one million times less energy.

Arxiv- Recognizing the Value of the solar Gravitational Lens for Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an Exoplanet.

International Journal of Modern Physics D – Putting gravity to work: Imaging of exoplanets with the solar gravitational lens

Written By Brian Wang,