The telescope of the future
The Hypertelescope, an innovative french project and a world first
Antoine Labeyrie, now Professor Emeritus of the College of France, is a pioneer of interferometry in astronomy. He imagined and began to realize with his team and with the support of the Observatory of Côte d'Azur, in the Alpes of Haute-Provence, a telescope on the scale of a mountain: the HYPERTELESCOPE.
The hypertelescope in its terrestrial version will be 200 m in diameter. With its 800 mirrors of 15cm, it will accumulate two times more collecting surface than the Hubble space telescope for a visual acuity almost one hundred times greater. It will be five times as powerful in resolution than the future 39m EELT in Chile (ESO).
In its space version, the hypertelescope will be ten times larger that the diameter of the planet Earth and will be able to produce sharp images of the surface of an extrasolar planet approximately 10 light-years away.
Principle: the innovative concept of the hypertelescope is to replace the unique classic mirror of the telescope by a "diluted mirror" composed of many small separated mirrors with a diameter of 15 cm positioned very precisely so as to form a virtual concave mirror.
Abilities: More mirror surface to collect the light of a telescope yields more rich, deep and detailed images, the hypertelescope offers the possibility to multiply the number of mirrors at will and significantly increase this surface without increasing the practical difficulties and can exceed the maximum size of very large telescopes currently being planned.
Its effectiveness: the diameter of the mirror of a telescope, that is the distance separating the two furthest edges, determines its ability to capture the details of its target. By its dimensions out of the ordinary, dozens of times higher than conventional telescopes, the visual acuity of an hypertelescope will reach yet never equalled thresholds
Its dimensions: by its split architecture, there is no limit to how many mirrors can make up a hypertelescope. a larger number will result in a greater total collecting area of light. There is no theoretical limit of distance between the small mirrors for a hypertelescope. And thus the diameter of the hypertelescope can take the dimensions of a simple swimming pool, or the hollow top of a volcano or a mountain valley.
Its costs: the manufacture, transport and installation of hypertelescope mirrors have very reduced costs compared to a very large conventional telescope mirrors, like the E – ELT. Thus, if you add up the surface of all mirrors, for an area equal to that of a conventional telescope, and for the same amount of light collected, the final cost will be much lower. A Hypertelescope offers a larger collector area than a classical telescope at equal cost.
More possibilities: in the future, we will be able to install and operate several pods on the same telescope which will allow to have many simultaneous observations with exactly the same technical characteristics. Each gondola will add a new telescope to th e one already built at an incredibly reduced cost. A hypertelescope will also therefore also be a multi-telescope.
Several pods for a Multi-telescope.