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    You Have One Missed Call From Space: Interstellar Video Streaming Could Be Real

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    Have you ever wondered if it was possible to send a message across interstellar space? A new proposal suggests that the Sun's gravity could be used to amplify signals from an interstellar space probe, which will allow video to be streamed from as far away as Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to our own.

    At present there are no probes far out enough to take advantage of this technology yet, yet experts say having the means to be able to communicate and make calls is a future possibility.

    To receive even a single-watt signal from a probe in Alpha Centauri, independent astrophysicist Michael Hippke found that an Earth-based instrument would need to be 53 kilometers across — bigger than New York City.

    ​In his study, Mr. Hippke proposes instead that a telescope, about a meter across could be used to relay the signal. It would just have to be placed at a point about 90 billion km from the sun — a distance that would optimize an effect known as gravitational lensing, which occurs when huge collections of matter — such as those found in galaxy clusters — warp the space-time around them, so that the light from objects behind the clusters takes a curved path. Once this happens the signal will be magnified.

    The effect, predicted by Albert Einstein and first observed in 1919, bends and focuses light to a point as it passes the edge of a massive object such as the Sun.

    Once this occurs, you should be able to start talking to Alpha Centauri, with the gravitational-lensing effect; a little power would go a long way towards transmitting data back to our solar system.

    "Around the nearest stars, a handheld laser pointer could do it; the data rate would be high enough that sending pictures and video is possible, although at present it would still take four years to receive any data stream from as far away as Alpha Centauri," Mr. Hippke said in a recent interview. 

    ​Despite the many challenges involved in such an ambitious project, Mr. Hippke says humans have launched larger space telescopes than what he is proposing. 

    "This is much easier than building the Hubble Space Telescope," he said.

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    Tags:
    communication, text, telescope, technology, space exploration, galaxy, European Space Agency (ESA), NASA, Albert Einstein, alpha centauri, space, Europe, United States
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