NASA’s Gateway to Distant Worlds

Last week, we discussed the stunning images from the James Webb Space Telescope, including its discovery of a potential life-building block on Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa. However, to truly uncover distant life or delve deeper into the wonders of our universe we need to see much farther.

Slava Turyshev, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, is working on using the sun as a lens in a telescope. This concept is based on an effect known as Gravitational Lensing.

Gravitational Lensing happens when a massive object, such as a galaxy cluster, is positioned between an observer and a distant object, bending the latter’s light into an Einstein ring. This effect is caused by the object’s gravity, which warps and magnifies the images behind it.

Using the sun for this, which is called Solar Gravitational Lensing (SGL), could theoretically increase a background image by a factor of 100 billion. This would increase our ability to see distant planets and starts far beyond what we could conceivably do otherwise.

If this is not sci-fi enough for you already, SGL could potentially be used for interstellar communication. Signals sent through the gravitational field could much more easily reach nearby stars without degrading.

Here is a excellent video diving into the subject with much greater detail.

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