Possibly a thousand times sharper than NASA’s well-known Hubble Space Telescope, Aragoscope is a lens-less orbiting telescope concept that provides higher optic resolution. The name Aragoscope is coined after Francois Arago, a French scientist who first observed how light waves diffract around a disk.
So how does this work? Compared to a telescope, which uses a mirror, the Aragoscope will make use of a low cost, opaque disk that could be a half mile in diameter. A large disk as a diffraction lens bends light from distant objects around the edge of the disk and concentrates it like a conventional refraction lens. The telescope will be pointing at this disk along an axis to a distant target, which will enhance the resolution of the system without a loss of collecting area. This becomes very practical and exceedingly powerful in particularly large telescope, though it is not very distinct when used on the small scale.
Anthony Harness, Colorado University-Boulder doctoral student states, “The opaque disk of the Aragoscope works in a similar way to a basic lens, the light diffracted around the edge of the circular disk travels the same path length to the center and comes into focus as an image.”
Aragoscope has similarities to the Starshade that is also being developed by NASA, which uses the same telescope and giant floating disk architecture. This is not a coincidence since the Starshade telescope was also developed by the members of the Aragoscope team.
This new orbital telescope concept, which was selected by NASA last June, became one of the 12 proposals for its NASA Innovative Advanced Concept (NIAC) program – each of which received $100,000 to fund nine-months of research for projects ranging from capturing asteroids to sending submarines to the lakes of Titan. This telescope is now up for being one of the six projects that will receive an additional fund amounting $500,000 in April.
The Aragoscope as seen by the team is one way to further understand and dig deeper into the universe to observe phenomena like black hole event horizons, or turned on the Earth to pick out objects the size of a rabbit. The next movement for this project is testing the actual concept. This will involve more laboratory work and if it is successful, a more dramatic demonstration will take place.