The search for exoplanets is never waning, with scientists from across the globe trying to find potentially habitable planets from other galaxies far away from ours, then trying to figure out if these planets are capable of supporting life much like our own planet, which will finally answer the age-old question of whether we are alone in the universe or not.

Studying Exoplanets

Through the years, astronomers were able to find several potentially habitable exoplanets with the same surface like Earth.

Some of these planets are deemed as potentially habitable as they are located in the Goldilocks zone, which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) explains as the zone where the range of distance that enables the right temperature for water--an essential element to support life--to remain liquid.

But despite these exoplanets in the Goldilocks zones of their respective star systems, it is still challenging for our scientists to study these planets and find answers to our questions.

However, it would help if we have a strong-enough telescope to peer closer to these worlds--and that's what scientists are trying to create.

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Using the Sun for a Massive Telescope

According to Universe Today, we might be able to use the Sun as a Gravitational Lens Telescope through the General Theory of Relativity by Albert Einstein.

Theoretical physicist Viktor Toth and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory physicist Slava G. Turyshev published a paper on pre-publish site arXiv that is being considered for publication in the scientific journal "Physical Review D" entitled "Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an Exoplanet with a Solar Gravitational Lens Mission."

Based on the paper, the Solar Gravitational Lens (SGL) is being considered with the theory that gravity alters spacetime curvature, which then changes the passage of light when it encounters a gravitational field.

For years, this has been used for Gravitational Lensing, wherein a massive cosmic object in the foreground is used to amplify a distant source.

The scientists used a distant exoplanet orbiting in Proxima Centauri as an example.

"To directly observe and image an exoplanet we need access to very large telescopes," Turyshev said. "Thus, if we want to see our own Earth in just one pixel from a distance of 100 light-years, we need a telescope with ~90 kilometers in diameter."

Moreover, the researchers also simulated how an Earth-sized exoplanet from a neighboring star system would look like through SGL.

Possible, But Challenging

According to Futurism, these are all technically possible, but it would be incredibly challenging to do.

For one, scientists would have to travel a distance of 550 times the space between Earth and Sun for the focal point of the gravitational lens to observe a clearer image of a particular cosmic object--something that's too far for a telescope.

Nevertheless, compared to actually travel to these exoplanets that are thousands if not millions of light-years away, using a gravitational lens is the better choice.

Furthermore, none of the current space telescopes we use have the proper resolution that could directly image smaller planets that revolve around their stars, so using SGL might not happen anytime soon.

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Written by: Nhx Tingson

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