Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sun's Gravity Could Be Tapped to Call E.T.

Adam Hadhazy - Our own sun might represent the best communications device around, if only we could harness its power, scientists say.

If the sun's gravity could be used to create a giant telescope, people could send and receive intensely magnified signals that could allow us to call an alien civilization, some researchers propose.

According to Einstein's general relativity, the sun's behemoth mass warps space-time around it, which actually bends light rays passing by like a giant lens. If a detector was placed at the right focal distance to collect the light, the resulting image would be extremely magnified.

The only catch is, the nearest focal point is about 550 times the distance between the Earth and the sun.

Nonetheless, eventually harnessing this power might enable Earth to view distant objects, communicate with interstellar probes, and even contact aliens, scientists say. The technique could be applied to optical light, or longer-wavelength light in the radio spectrum, for example.

Plus, an even stronger network could be created by placing relay spacecraft near other stars to form "radio bridges" across the great voids between stars that weaken and distort cosmic communiques.

"If we use the sun as a gravitational lens, then we can keep in touch with our own probes even at considerable interstellar distances," said Claudio Maccone, technical director of the Paris-based International Academy of Astronautics, and author of a new study on the mechanics of the proposed technique.

"This is key to exploring the neighborhood of our galaxy in the centuries to come," he said. ...

via Sun's Gravity Could Be Tapped to Call E.T. - Yahoo! News.

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