What Comes After LUVOIR? Three Extreme Ideas For Space Telescopes


while we’re all waiting for James Webb
to launch which it will the extremely large telescope to be constructed and
Louvre our to get approved please get approved please get approved
we’re all gonna need a way to pass the time
so let’s have our imaginations take flight out into the universe and
consider some of the most incredible ideas suggested for telescopes
unless you’ve been crawling through scientific journals like me I guarantee
you’ve never heard of any of them but when I’m done you’re gonna want to fund
all of them okay let’s get into it and start talking about an idea that you’re
probably familiar with but put it on the moon the overwhelmingly large telescope
Moon Edition people always ask me why nobody is planning to build a telescope
on the moon and obviously that’s because getting to the moon is incredibly
hazardous complicated and expensive the best effort of the United States was to
get 12 men down to the surface and they were able to bring home a few hundred
kilograms of space rocks but what if we had a serious presence on the moon with
SpaceX starships flitting back and forth between our worlds and someone wanted to
put up a serious telescope on the moon what’s possible okay fine here’s what’s
possible according to gene schneider joseph silk and frog for kelly called
owl moon very high-resolution spectra polarimetric interferometry and imaging
from the moon first a little background the largest ground telescope under
construction is the European extremely large telescope which will measure 39
metres across more than triple the size of the largest operational telescope
right now and when it’s completed in 2026 the ELT will have the capability of
directly observing planets orbiting other stars but there was another idea
in the works called the overwhelmingly large telescope which would aim to build
the largest possible earth-based telescope with an aperture of 100 metres
across this telescope would have the capability of studying the atmospheres
of earth sized planets orbiting other stars but when the cost estimates
reached more than a billion dollars a billion dollars Europe decided to build
the extremely large tell nope instead nobody wants to put a
billion dollars into a telescope yes I’m aware of James Webb’s budget so the plan
for al moon is to put the overwhelmingly large telescope on the moon what could
you do with a telescope that big in a place that has no atmosphere al moon
could directly observe earth sized worlds orbiting other stars and map out
their continents they could study the atmospheres of other worlds and search
for bio signatures with a high degree of precision it could get this watch the
silhouettes of planets as they transit in front of their stars and measure the
heights of their mountains it could look at planets and detect the glint of light
off their oceans and then of course you could use it for anything else you’d
want to study with a 100 metre Space Telescope newly forming planetary
systems the accretion disks around black holes and peer right out to the very
edge of the observable universe and see the first stars forming for all you
David kipping fans Owl Moon could serve as a detector for a tera scope using the
atmosphere of the earth as another lens to see the universe with even more
precision there’s another advantage by having a telescope on the moon and other
telescopes here on earth you could have them act together as a single telescope
with a baseline of 380,000 kilometers on average now it’s not as good as a
telescope that big but with modern techniques and a lot of computing power
it could be possible to resolve the surface of the Pulsar at the heart of
the Crab Nebula or see the surface of white dwarf Sirius be the challenge of
building a gigantic telescope on the moon of course is building a gigantic
telescope on the moon right now it costs about $100,000 per kilogram to launch
material to the moon so clearly a lot of it would need to be built out of local
materials which is abundant on the moon but engineers would need to develop
optical surfaces that don’t require polishing and could be 3d printed right
on site Europe is already planning a lunar village which could begin
construction in the 2035 to 2050 timeframe Antarctica is another place
that’s remote complicated and difficult for humans to survive but once there
were permanently inhabited research stations of the South Pole the telescope
soon followed when the lunar village gets set up we
could see smaller 1 to 8 meter telescopes followed eventually by the
monster lunar scopes next up let’s consider the Nautilus proposed by Donna
lop ie Tom mill ster and others called a thousand Earth’s a very large aperture
ultralight Space Telescope array for atmosphere bio signature surveys I have
liked every part of that title their goal is to create a space telescope
capable of finding life on other worlds an observatory that can scan the
atmospheres of 1000 like worlds in the habitable zones of their stars within a
radius of 1,000 light-years considering the fact that there are new
observatories today that can do this even James Webb or leVoir won’t be able
to scan exoplanet atmospheres at this industrial scale it’s going to take an
enormous Space Telescope but instead of a single expensive Space Telescope
Nautilus would consist of 35 14 meter wide spherical telescopes each one of
these instruments would be more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope but they
use a special kind of lens that’s perfect for studying the atmosphere of a
transiting exoplanet but not great for general Astronomy purposes the lens is
called a multi order diffractive engineered material lens technology or
mode they’re lighter and less dense than traditional telescope mirrors and work
through diffraction as light changes directions best example is something
like this is a Fresnel lens which is flat but can still provide magnification
the telescopes would be constructed on the ground and then stacked up inside
their rocket in a compact configuration that fits within a rocket fairing 15
Nautilus units could be stacked up inside a spacex starship launch fairing
like a roll of coins then they launch to their ideal orbit probably the Earth Sun
l2 Lagrange point you know that spot that keeps the Sun Earth and Moon in the
same spot in the sky the telescope’s would deploy and inflate into spheres
with these unique mode lenses and here’s the key they don’t need to fly in a
specific careful formation they don’t even need to be close together they can
drift closer and farther each other it really doesn’t matter
they’re not using interferometry to combine their light they’re just
collecting the light that falls on their separate instruments merging that
together as if it was a single telescope with the total surface area of all the
separate lenses they’d act like a single telescope the equivalent of a 50 metre
space telescope this would be one to two orders of magnitude more powerful than
leVoir at a reasonable price and it can be scaled up just launched more space
balloons I’ll put a link to the original paper in the show notes so you can read
it at your leisure it goes into great detail and there’s some math but it’s
highly readable and I think you’ll enjoy it too telescopes down but I promise you
a third how about a telescope that’s more than a hundred kilometres across
and we’ll get to that in a second but first I’d like to thank sergeant prison
phil kerr jan josh süßer and the rest of our 827 patrons for their generous
support educational content should be freely available to anyone in the world
and the patrons make this possible join our community at patreon.com slash
universe today and get in on the action the French astronomer Antoine labarie
has been advocating for decades for the plan of building a hyper telescope a
gigantic Space Telescope made of smaller individual observatories that fly in
formation consider the event horizon telescope which used the technique of
interferometry to create a virtual radio telescope the size of planet Earth and
captured images of the event horizons around various black holes like m87
if you can separate the telescope’s but still align the receivers to the point
that they’re observing the same photon wave fronts you can have a telescope the
size of the earth this is called interferometry and it allows you to
resolve objects that you wouldn’t normally see you can’t see faint objects
as well but the resolution is really helpful for bright objects
interferometry and radio waves is tricky but possible here on earth as long as
you’ve got your clocks perfectly calibrated and you’ve got an enormous
amount of computer power interferometry in the infrared and visible spectrum is
much trickier because the wavelength of the photons are so small the European
Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope is an interferometer
using the combined light and baseline from four separate telescopes to act
like a single telescope but it does it with a lot of lasers but what if you
could fly your separate telescope in space where you could align them
perfectly to do interferometry without atmospheric turbulence wind weather
wildlife and earthquakes the baby proposes a flotilla of tiny optical
telescopes just a few centimeters across and arrange them into a gigantic sphere
which then communicates to a larger focal combiner to receive the signals
and send them home to earth in proposal to NASA in 2008 the team suggested a
starting size of one kilometer which would be made up of a hundred light
collectors each of which is 25 centimeters across for about 10 inches
at this point it would have the same ability as Hubble to see fainter objects
but with much higher resolution but follow-on missions could expand the
number of spacecraft in the array to over a thousand as well as expand the
wavelengths farther into the infrared in ultraviolet if the sphere provided a 100
kilometer diameter they would be capable of providing images of the surface of an
exoplanet 10 light-years away from Earth astronomers would be able to separate
the oceans and continents and even see different vegetation zones and they’ve
proposed a version that would be more than 100 thousand kilometres across that
could image the surface of neutron stars see the region around the Milky Way’s
supermassive black hole in unprecedented detail it would directly image the first
galaxies that formed in the universe it could detect rogue planets and black
holes as they pass in front of stars in front of other galaxies one advantage of
the strategy is that you can start small the technique would be viable with just
12 collectors and a focal combiner spacecraft but then you can launch more
collectors and more focal combiners creating larger and larger telescopes
the array would be launched to the Sun earth l2 Lagrange point now because the
light pressure from the Sun will be constantly pushing on the light weight
telescopes they would actually be positioned a little closer to the Sun so
that then they’d be in balance micro thrusters might be needed to keep them
aligned and if they run out of fuel then you just send
more collectors if they get knocked out by cosmic rays or micrometeorites you
send more collectors the cheap and easy to replace but an even bolder ideas to
use lasers to keep the telescope’s aligned an infrared laser could push the
collectors around and then trap them in a parabola with an accuracy of about one
micron of all the ideas in this video the hyper telescope is actually the
farthest along libary and his team are working on a ground-based version in the
southern French Alps it’s built into a valley with dozens of collector mirrors
focusing their light on a focal camera that’s suspended above and if these
tests are successful we could see prototype versions fly next new
technologies lower launch costs reusable rockets the next next generation of
enormous space telescopes could be right around the corner what do you think
which of these three telescope ideas do you like the best let me know your
thoughts in the comments here are the names of the patrons who support us at
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I’ll put a link in the show notes interested in the next generation of
super telescopes here’s a video that we did first on all of the ground super
telescopes and then all the space super telescopes watch it now

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