NASA believes that with a bigger telescope positioned farther out in space, they would be able to see more things and collect more data.
NASA wants to use liquids to build a telescope in space. All liquids have what is called surface tension. Surface tension allows some insects to glide across water without becoming submerged. But, In space droplets of water and other liquids assume a perfectly spherical shape after wobbling around for a bit.
In a new article on its website, NASA writes that it is exploring new ways and fluid materials to build giant telescopes.
“When it comes to telescopes, bigger is better,” the agency writes. “Larger telescopes collect more light and allow astronomers to peer farther into space and see distant objects in greater detail.
“What if there was a way to make a telescope 10 times – or even 100 times – bigger than before? What started as a theoretical question is now a series of experiments to see if fluids can be used to create lenses in microgravity.”
“We thought, why not take advantage of the way liquids naturally behave in microgravity and apply it to the construction of large-scale telescopes or space manufactured optical components that can have all kinds of uses,” stated Balaban.
Balaban also said that in microgravity, liquids can take on forms that can be useful for making lenses and mirrors. Therefore, if these liquid telescopes are created in space, they could be built to be immensely larger than what was previously thought possible.
Incredibly, the researchers were able to create a lens in a janitor’s bucket, according to Dr. Valeri Frumkin. “Polymers, which are also used in nail salons to make acrylic nails or in adhesives like superglue, are a natural choice for lens material. The trick is to make sure that the water has the exact same density as the polymer we’re injecting so that the forces of buoyancy precisely oppose gravitational forces to simulate the conditions of weightlessness.”
Ax-1 crew member Eytan Stibbe will perform the next experiment aboard the International Space Station, with Ax-1 Commander Michael Lopez-Algeria serving as his backup. This time the experiment will take place entirely in microgravity, and will use UV light or temperature to harden them in orbit. The lenses that are created in space will then be returned to Earth where researchers will continue exploring the possibilities, according to Hot Hardware.