Vision of an astronomical telescope of asteroid belt and hypertelescopes

Physics Today has a speculative article that proposes that the laser light is used to shape and polish an asteroid to high optical standards. This could create an Asteroid Belt Astronomical Telescope (ABAT).

The Asteroid Belt Astronomical Telescope (ABAT) focuses light from laser-polished asteroids onto dual imaging arrays above and below the solar system; further intense laser pulses maneuver the arrays to different locations, allowing ABAT to point at multiple celestial targets. Asteroid ablation residue encased in a pair of devil’s footprints shields focal regions from solar illumination. (Courtesy of Laura Kim.)

Imagery imagined at a resolution of 10 meters of the exoplanet

The imagined angular resolution of exoplanet Gliese 832 c is a factor of 10,000 below the theoretical limit of 2×10^−11 arcsec

Gliese 832 c is the first exoplanet imaged by the Asteroid Belt Astronomical Telescope. This image, with a resolution of 10 meters, was released last month by ABAT, after construction of the telescope was 1% complete. (Courtesy of Laura Kim.)

An array with elements that share Jupiter’s orbit would nearly double the effective aperture diameter. Increasing the distance to Neptune and the Kuiper Belt would further increase the resolution.

Instead of waiting for asteroids to be laser shaped, we can start mass production of cubesats with 2 meter mirrors. Deploying these telescopes around the solar system could form a hypertelescope with the capabilities of the imagined asteroid belt telescope.

The theoretical limit of 2×10^−11 arcseconds suggests a millimeter resolution at 100 light-years.

Seth Shostak described a very large array of optical interferometry space telescopes. Using interferometry to aggregate data from thousands of small mirrors in space spread over 100 million kilometers to image exoplanets 100 light-years away at up to 2-meter resolution.

100 light-years away, something the size of a Honda Accord subtends an angle of half a trillionth of an arcsecond. In case that number doesn’t speak to you, it’s roughly the apparent size of a cell nucleus on Pluto, as seen from Earth.

I think you would have a cube or sphere 1 AU in diameter and that volume would be filled with 1 million space telescopes. In this way, every 0.01 AU there is a space telescope, and then they are instructed to work with different scopes at different times in order to look at other places. Each span would need its own shading devices. therefore all actions are close to each other and only pivoting is necessary. 1 billion spans would mean one every 0.001 AU. etc…

Hypertelescope background material

Nextbigfuture has already covered hypertelescope technology


Hypertelescope document (11 pdf pages)

Fleets of satellites are obviously needed for optical networks ranging in size from kilometers to hundreds and thousands of kilometers. Among the possible hypertelescope schemes, those with a concave primary array and a focal combiner seemed well suited to space versions with multiple free-flyers. Let be spherical ( CARLINA diet) or paraboloidal shapes can be considered for the primary lattice. Early orbital testing is desirable to develop formation flying techniques. Our group studies the design of nano-satellites propelled by solar sails and plans to test them in geostationary orbit. “Gossamer” free-flyers with a mass as low as 100 grams are considered. With a rigid sail with an area of ​​0.1 square meter, driving a stellar mirror with a membrane of comparable size, the accelerations can reach 10 microns per square second, providing displacements of 5 m in 1000 seconds.


Once the techniques of controlling a flotilla of space mirrors are mastered, it may not take many years to expand their size from hundreds of meters to hundreds of kilometers. This is the size needed to obtain well-resolved visible images of an exo-Earth in a few parsecs. Simulation 37 has shown that visible “portraits” of such planets can be obtained in 30 minutes exposure, using a 150 km hypertelescope with 150 3 meter mirrors.

For larger and larger optical gratings, the sizes will eventually be limited by the number of photons received per resel. The number decreases when a lattice explodes as it shrinks the celestial resels The Crab Pulsar, believed to contain a compact neutron star of visual magnitude 18, requires huge baselines beyond 100,000 km to resolve the 20 km neutron star, but its extreme luminance can deliver enough photons per resel through such a highly dilute aperture, with sub-apertures of a few meters. A “Neutron Star Imager” hypertelescope covering several hundreds of thousands of kilometers is therefore possible. It can be similar to EED or IEE, but requires primary mirror elements as large as 8 meters to focus their focal Airy peaks into a comparable size, so they can be collected with optics combination of manageable size bundles.

Laser Driven Hypertelescope
Feasibility of a flotilla of laser hypertelescopes at L2 (28 page presentation)

• Many small mirrors better than a few large ones
• But how small? Minimum size of approximately 30mm for tolerable beam spread
• 40,000 30mm mirrors for the same surface as JWST? …. Flotilla trapped by laser?

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