The bigger is a telescope, the more details it can see of a distant target. This is why astronomical telescopes all over the world are racing to get
bigger and bigger. In fact, a recent device combined the imaging power of a satellite with hardware on Earth so to create a telescope the size of,
virtually, 8 Earths - enabling us to see for the first time in History the birth of planets around a distant star, something which was impossible to
achieve with our smaller telescopes.
But this feat inspired me. It gave me an idea - using Time in addition of Space so to push things to the next level. What if we could create a
telescope whose size is not measured in Earth width... but in planetary orbit units?
And so I'd like to set down my idea for the theory behind the construction of a telescope roughly 100,000,000 miles wide (or more) - Timelapse
How traditional telescopes work
Now traditional telescopes are big, concave mirrors which magnify the image of the target by focusing its light rays into a single point, like so:
In telescopes, a secondary mirror then sends the focused light out at the stargazer (since the stargazer doesn't, you know, live inside the
The larger the mirror, the more light rays it can gather from the target, and the clearer the magnified picture of the target will be. This is why
your 1-meter telescope always beats your 75mm when it comes to getting a clear picture of anything from the M45 nebula to the Pinwheel galaxy. This is
why gathering light for a width worth several Earths gives us the ability to beat even the meter-sized telescopes and start seeing clear details of a
solar system being born. Imagine what details we could see of the cosmos if we had a telescope capable of gathering light across astronomical units
instead. The resolution would beat anything we've ever seen by several orders of magnitude.
Such a large telescope is theoretically possible, and the mirror needed wouldn't even have to be that large spatially - instead, Time would fill in
where space can't.
Crank it up a notch
My first thought (and a good way to present the core of my idea) was to use the Earth as a carrier for the mirror. My thought experiment pictures a
mirror on Earth. As the Earth rotates around the Sun, on her near-circular orbit, the mirror describes in space and time a concave trajectory.
Any light rays of a target would be reflected by the mirror. Though the mirror is small (in the sense that it's not Astronomical Units wide), the
mirror nevertheless travels across distances of astronomical units, and keeps on reflecting light rays into a point during all that time. Effectively
turning the little mirror... into a magnifying, AU-wide reflection telescope.
Then all that is needed is a timelapse camera placed at the point of focus so to harvest the magnified image (it has to be set at combining the
reflected images of all time frames together in a cumulative fashion, which basically means very low shutter speed), and send the information back at
And there you go - you have a Timelapse Telescope.
Improving the concept
Now, using a planet is not the optimal idea - a telescope using a circular orbit gives image of high resolution on only one axis: width. One typically
needs 2-D imaging (width + height), but circular orbits cannot give resolution across the height axis.
To solve this issue, one simply needs to consider placing multiple artificial satellites, each carrying their own mirror, on orbits which have the
same diameters but have different orbit plane angles. That way all orbits would form the section of a sphere, and all mirrors would form a parabolic
shape in timelapse - covering horizontal resolution individually and vertical resolution collectively:
Of course, a simpler alternative would be to change the orbital plane angle of a single mirror-carrying satellite each time it completes one orbit;
but to achieve a decent vertical resolution using that method would take much more time (several decades if the satellite is at 1AU from the Sun) than
if you'd use multiple satellites with dedicated mirrors.
This concludes the presentation of my idea. Just putting it out there!
At Time's End,