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Space Technology

Why Gravity Is the Ultimate Space Telescope (forbes.com) 42

TheAlexKnapp writes: Ethan Siegel has written a nice overview of gravitational lensing, and how taking advantage of it has enabled to study parts of the universe that otherwise would've require the construction of massive telescopes. From his Forbes article: "Although the first gravitational lens wasn't discovered for some 40 years after it was first theorized, it's now the most prolific tool for weighing distant (foreground) galaxies, and discovering ultra-distant (background) galaxies. Although this isn't a technique we have precision control over — the Universe puts the lenses and the lensed objects where they are, and all we can do is watch — there's a spectacular amount of material that's out there."
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Why Gravity Is the Ultimate Space Telescope

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  • I like that the stars are out there, bigger than our petty affairs down here on Earth. I also like to think that there are even more amazing than the stars we observe in this universe.
  • Maybe it's just diffraction. http://www.thunderbolts.info/t... [thunderbolts.info]
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @12:29AM (#50853025) Homepage

    Wow, years ago, as a fresh-scrubbed nerd hanging out with other nerds, gravitational lensing was as yet unproven; it was based in science, but I don't think anybody had done it yet.

    Of course, this was right around the time when we were on the cusp of seriously discussing exoplanets, yet to confirm a black hole, still working on hubble, and when radio astronomy was still coming into its own. Things which are almost commonplace were cutting edge stuff which hadn't happened yet.

    To all the physicists, astrophysicists, amateurs, and other people who have made space discovery so damned awesome for the last few decades ... you're fucking awesome, and thanks for showing us just how cool the universe is.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Of course, this was right around the time when we were on the cusp of seriously discussing exoplanets, yet to confirm a black hole, still working on hubble, and when radio astronomy was still coming into its own.

      Your sense of time seems a little wonky, since galactic gravitational lensing was late 70s (~60 years after Eddington's original observation using the Sun), radio astronomy was well established by the 60s (e.g. Arecibo was built in 1963), Hubble just got first approval of funds about the same time, and the first confirmed exoplanets was not until the 90s.

  • by romit_icarus ( 613431 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @01:03AM (#50853149) Journal
    Now just imagine a Beowulf cluster of these gravitational lenses...
  • Although the first gravitational lens wasn't discovered for some 40 years after it was first theorized

    Eddington demonstrated gravitational lensing just a few years after the theory was published, in 1919. And he would possibly have been quicker if if weren't for WWI

  • by Maritz ( 1829006 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @06:53AM (#50853963)
    Kinda surprised he'd write an entire article about what a great telescope gravity makes for and not mention the FOCAL [centauri-dreams.org] proposal. If you had a probe sufficiently distant from the sun opposite Alpha Centari and there was a city full of little aliens there, you'd be able to see the cars move around in the streets. Not that this will ever happen or that humanity are capable of such projects - we clearly are not. But it's still a nice idea.
    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      FOCAL is in fact far more plausible than much of the outside of the box thinking. Solar sails can even get you out far enough from the sun. However i am a little suspicious of the diffraction limit claim. It is not really a big lense. Just approximately so, with a massive ball of 6000C plasma in the middle of the camera.

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