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How this NASA mission managed to get a high-resolution image of an exoplanet

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One of the most exciting aspects of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is its ability to create images and collect information about exoplanets. But while JWST will give us a lot of information about these celestial bodies, there’s something it can’t do: create a high-resolution image of an Earth-like exoplanet — specifically one where we can see clear evidence of possible life on another world, such as landmasses, clouds, and bodies of water.

Slava Turyshev of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory is working on a solution that will give us a clearer picture of an exoplanet. This method would use a phenomenon called gravitational lensing to capture that kind of image. gravitational lenses occurs when the gravity of a massive object, such as a galaxy or star, bends spacetime around it. This curvature in space-time acts like a lens, bending and magnifying light from much more distant objects around it. When viewed from the correct angle and distance, the magnified light will appear as a ring, also known as an Einstein ring.

Turyshev’s proposed solar-gravity lens would use the sun as that massive object and magnify the light from a distant exoplanet to construct a high-resolution image we couldn’t otherwise visualize. We sat down with Turyshev to discuss what it would take to achieve this goal and how he hopes to achieve it within a few decades. Watch our video above to see more.

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