Nature has presented us with a very powerful “instrument” that we have yet to explore and learn to use. This instrument is the Solar Gravitational Lens (SGL), which results from the ability of the gravity field of the Sun to focus light from faint, distant targets. In the near future, a modest telescope could operate on the focal line of the SGL, which begins 547 AU in the far outer solar system. Using the enormous magnification power of the Lens would enable high-resolution images and spectroscopy of a habitable exoplanet. We discuss the imaging properties of the SGL, when the image occupies many pixels in the region near the optical axis. We discuss a mission to the SGL focal region that could provide us with direct, multi-pixel, high-resolution images and spectroscopy of a potentially habitable Earth-like exoplanet. Based on our initial studies, we find that such a mission could produce (1,000×1,000) pixels images of “Earth 2.0” at distances up to 30pc with spatial resolution of ~10 km on its surface, enough to see its surface features. We address some aspects of mission design and spacecraft requirements, as well as capabilities needed to fly this mission in the next two decades.
Dr. Turyshev is a physicist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, whose areas of research include gravitational and fundamental physics, research in astronomy, astrophysics and planetary science. He is an expert in spacecraft navigation, solar system dynamics, satellite and lunar laser ranging, planetary research and related technology efforts spanning detectors, instruments and data analysis.
Dr. Louis Friedman co-founded The Planetary Society with Carl Sagan and Bruce Murray, and was its Executive Director for more than 30 years. Before that he was Advanced Programs Manager at JPL and led various programs including the post-Viking Mars program, solar sailing, and the International Halley Watch. He has written two books, one on solar sailing, and more recently Human Spaceflight From Mars to the Stars. He is on the Breakthrough Starshot Advisory Committee and Chair of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) External Council. His technical background is in Mission Analysis and Astrodynamics.