If astronomers will somehow be able to rapidly locate exoplanets as fast as they do in the case of stars, they would probably spend their whole life still searching for such remote planets in the observable Universe. No disrespect intended, but they would probably call it a day after a few hours of searching and start cutting corners with a brief report. That’s how numerous exoplanets can be.
So far, only about 5,000 exoplanets have been found by astronomers. These objects are much harder to find than stars because they barely emit any light. But there might be a way to cut astronomers some slack and allow them to locate exoplanets faster and in high-resolution images.
Astronomers could use the Sun as a gravitational lens
According to Universe Today, scientists are hoping to rely on the Solar Gravity Lens (SGL) concept by trying to create a spacecraft that would use our Sun as a gravitational lens to see exoplanets in great detail. They believe it’s possible to use the technique for imaging a planet the size of Earth up to the point that surface features measuring 10 kilometers across would become clear, even though the space object is located 100 light-years away.
The idea should work by sending a spacecraft to exploit the focal region of our star to bend the light coming from exoplanets, and thus, having the chance to enhance them in huge images.
Slava Turyshev from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, who also conducted research regarding the Solar Gravity Lens theory, is confident that the concept already matches the laws of physics. Scientists just need to figure out the engineering part.
Seeing exactly what’s cooking on an exoplanet was impossible until now, but there is hope that it will change. Gravitational lensing can allow the light from a distant object to get distorted due to the presence of a massive object that’s placed on the same line. Therefore, a lens is created that will allow astronomers to see remote space objects much clearer.