NASA has a plan to see the surface of exoplanets within 100 light years

Une vue d'artiste d'une exoterre. © Nasa Ames, SETI Institute, JPL-Caltech

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[EN VIDÉO] Proxima B, the closest exoplanet to us!
It is the only planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri in Alpha Centauri. This system is very close to our solar system, “only” 4,244 light years from us.

This July 29, 2022, famous siteEncyclopedia of Solar Planets Nosphere notes that it found 5,121 Extraterrestrials Since 51 Pegasi B, a discovery has resulted in Nobel Prizes Body Michael Mayer and Didier Kulos. Futura was recently interviewed The creator of this site Now world famous, TheAstronomer French Jean Schneider.

Knowledge of the existence of these exoplanets is an extraordinary advance in historyHomo sapiens But that’s still partly because, for the most part, we only have estimates the masses And distances to these exoplanets, and some rare spectra fetus compositionAtmospheres Shorten it.

Obviously, we would like to have at least images of details of these exoplanets, especially if they are possible exo-Earths. Ideally, we want to detect biosignatures and even technological signatures there.

The NASA Recently allocated new funds for the study of a fascinating project to be carried out during the XXIe century for this purpose. The plan itself is on the cards and there is no question of physically carrying it out yet. it is a Avatar In 1979 Stanford University researcher V.R. Lens Gravitational Sun.

In concrete terms, it is to take advantage of the fact that the field Gravity A celestial body refracts the light rays like a lens and therefore provides a magnification factor to create images. Standing at a distance the sunSo you can use it Gravity lens To create an image of an exoplanet a Resolution Record, as we had a A giant telescope Far greater than anything that can be built on earth Gravity Distorting a Glass under its own weight.

Researchers want Slava G. Durishev from Jet Propulsion Laboratory As well as Alexander Madurovich and Bruce Mackintosh Published by Stanford arXiv And in an essay The Astrophysical Journal They have been developing the concept for a few years.

An array of telescopes powered by solar sails

Currently, the general opinions on this matter are as follows:

If we make images of an exoplanet directly using gravitational lensing, as in a telescope, we will get ambiguous results. It is best to fly multiple instruments in a swarm, each observing a portion of a loop.Einstein For the solar lens, that is, a distortion of the image of the exoplanet forming a ring, as in some observations. Quasars Uses strong gravitational lensing created by galaxies.

Specifically, the cluster should be sent between 548 and 900 times the distance from Earth to the Sun, making it possible to image up to 100 exoplanets. light years of the sun. There is no problem in theory, so the surrounding exoplanets should be observed Proxima Centauri And Trappist 1For example.

With an instrument whose mirror diameter is about one meter, images of the surface of these exoplanets can be obtained with a resolution of the order of a few tens of kilometers.

However, there are several problems with this idea. With current propulsion technology, it takes about a century to send instruments a good distance. We can reduce this period to 25-30 years, which is reasonable Duration Using the life of a person involved in this project Solar sails. The technology of these sails is not yet perfected, but is reasonably handy.

Descriptions of a recent concept for a mission to use solar gravitational lensing to image exoplanets. © Aerospace Corporation

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