A Liquid Lense? Ideas for Future Telescopes

Image (Credit): Artist’s drawing of a possible future giant telescope being created in space using fluids. (NASA & Studio Ella Maru)

NASA has an interesting story about the development of liquid lenses for space telescopes. It’s a fascinating idea as we watch the slow assembly of the James Webb Space Telescope’s (JWST) 18-part mirror. This new approach, which could increase a telescope’s size 100 fold, will be tested aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Edward Balaban, principal investigator of the Fluidic Telescope Experiment, or FLUTE, at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley stated:

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. In microgravity, liquids take on shapes that are useful for making lenses and mirrors, so if we make them in space, they could be used to build telescopes that are dramatically bigger than was previously thought possible.

We are already expecting great things from the JWSP, but what could we learn with a telescope that is 100 times larger? I look forward to the results from the experiment aboard the ISS.