This July 29, 2022, the famous site 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 the 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 still remains very partial because, for the most part, we only have estimates ofand distances for these exoplanets, and a few rare spectra giving a composition of to shorten it.
Obviously, we would like to at least have images of the details of these exoplanets, especially if they are potential exo-Earths. Ideally, we would even like to discover biosignatures and even technosignatures there.
Therecently 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 undertaking it yet. This is a of a concept proposed in 1979 by a Stanford University researcher, VR Eshleman: the gravitational solar.
In concrete terms, this means taking 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 some distance from the so it can be used as to form the image of an exoplanet with a record, as if we had a much larger than those that can be built on Earth due to the which deforms a under its own weight.
Researchers likefrom Jet Propulsion Laboratory as well as Alexander Madurowicz and from Stanford have therefore published on and in an article by for a few years already where they have been developing the concept.
A swarm of telescopes powered by solar sails
Currently, the general ideas on this subject are as follows:
By using directly, as with a telescope, a gravitational lens to form images of an exoplanet, we would however have rather vague results. The best is to have several instruments flying in a swarm and each observing a portion of the equivalent of 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 using a strong gravitational lens produced by a cluster of galaxies.
Concretely, this would require sending this swarm to distances between 548 and 900 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun, which would make it possible to form images of exoplanets up to about 100of the Sun. No problem in theory therefore to observe the exoplanets around and for example.
With a single instrument whose mirror would be about one 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. We could at best shorten the period to around 25-30 years, which is reasonable for thelife of a person involved in this project, using . The technology of these sails is not yet perfected, although reasonably close at hand.
Explanations on the latest concept of a mission to exploit the solar gravitational lens to image exoplanets. © The Aerospace Corporation