The Hubble Space telescope which has given us some of the most detailed images of distant space till now because of its extremely high resolution, might soon be overshadowed. Scientists and the University of Colorado, Boulder are now working on a concept which could provide pictures up to 1,000 times sharper than those by Hubble if they can raise adequate funds required to go ahead with executing their plans.
The concept is being developed by NASA and the CU team in unison. The new proposed telescope consists of an “orbiting space telescope and an opaque disk in front of it that could be up to a half mile across and bends light to converge it in a central point,” says the Daily Mail.
The instrument would work as the diffracted light waves from a target star or other space object would bend around the edges of the disk and converge in a central point. This converged light would then be fed into the orbiting telescope to provide high-resolution images.
The concept of the new, much more powerful telescope is being called Aragoscope after the French scientist Francois Arago who first detected diffracted light waves around a disk. The new concept, it is being hoped, could allow scientists to image space objects like black hole ‘event horizons’ and plasma swaps between stars, said Cash of CU-Boulder’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy.
The unique thing about the proposed Aragoscope is not so much the fact that it is capable of capturing better resolution images but the strategy for getting there. The new device proposes to use a two piece system as opposed to single telescope satellites which have hitherto been used by space scientists.
“Traditionally, space telescopes have essentially been monolithic pieces of glass like the Hubble Space Telescope,” explained Anthony Harness, a doctoral student in Colorado’s Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences.
“But the heavier the space telescope, the more expensive the cost of the launch,” Harness added. “We have found a way to solve that problem by putting large, lightweight optics into space that offer a much higher resolution and lower cost.”
This is one of the 12 proposals chosen by the NASA for research funding as part of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concept (NIAC) contest. The officials at the premier space agency will choose six of the proposals for additional funding in April.
It would be very cool to see one of these ultra-high resolution instruments within the next 10-15 years.