Sun’s gravity could power interstellar video streaming

Jul 3, 2017

By Jesse Emspak

Need to send a message across interstellar space? Use the sun for a signal boost. A new proposal suggests that the sun’s gravity could be used to amplify signals from an interstellar space probe, allowing video to be streamed from as far away as Alpha Centauri. Better still, the technology to do it has already been invented.

Though we don’t have probes far out enough to take advantage of this technology yet, it may eventually come in handy for interstellar communications. Building the communications grid now makes calls to our own spacecraft – or that of another alien race – a future possibility.

To receive even a single-watt signal from a probe in Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to our own, independent astrophysicist Michael Hippke found that an Earth-based instrument would need to be 53 kilometres across – bigger than New York City.

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One comment on “Sun’s gravity could power interstellar video streaming”

  • @OP link – Such a signal boost would be important for building receivers for any mission to interstellar space.
    Without it, we’d need to construct massive telescopes on Earth and send probes to interstellar space large enough to carry immense power sources.

    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,” says Hippke.
    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.

    The use of a relay probe using gravitational lensing to boost the signal was proposed in Project ICARUS some years ago.

    The latest proposal for sending probes to Alpha Centauri is Breakthrough Starshot, which would dispatch a fleet of miniature spaceships weighing only a few grams each and powered by light sails. The sails, the lasers to power them and the electronics will need years of development.

    These would seem to be too small to return a message from the Centauri System, even with a large relay probe using gravitational lensing.



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