The Hypertelescope: A Zoom With A View

To see how this might work, think of the Keck telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. At 10 metres across, Keck's mirror is among the largest in the world. Yet it is not a single mirror; instead it is made up of 36 hexagonal segments. If 30 of the segments were removed at random, the sensitivity of Keck would drop. This is because the remaining mirrors would collect much less light, so it would take far longer to image faint objects. But it would still be able to pick out fine detail because its resolution depends on the widest separation between two segments. So Keck would still have the same resolution as a 10-metre telescope, as long as two segments at opposite edges of the mirror remain intact. Labeyrie's design for a hypertelescope takes dilute optics to the extreme. Ultimately his Exo-Earth Imager will consist of at least 150 mirror elements, each measuring 3 metres across, and spread out over an area of about 8000 square kilometres. Together, they would fly in formation around the sun to make a hypertelescope with a diameter of 100 kilometres – large enough to pick out clouds and continents on a distant relative of our home planet.Site – http://www.newscientistspace.com

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One Response to The Hypertelescope: A Zoom With A View

  1. Bob Tubbs says:

    This suggested project is certainly extreme, and would be impressive! Given that the existing projects to put dilute aperture telescopes into orbit (Darwin, TPF-I) have all been reduced in scope due to the cost and complexity of such missions, it does seem unlikely that Labeyrie’s project is going to get serious funding anytime soon.

    For more info see:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomical_interferometer

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