On the Possibility of Using the Earth as an Atmospheric Lens
Distant starlight passing through the Earth’s atmosphere is refracted by an angle of just over one degree near the surface. This focuses light onto a focal line starting at an inner (and chromatic)boundary out to infinity – offering an opportunity for pronounced lensing. It is shown here that the focal line commences at ∼85% of the Earth-Moon separation, and thus placing an orbiting detector between here and one Hill radius could exploit this refractive lens. Analytic estimates are derived for a source directly behind the Earth (i.e. on-axis) showing that starlight is lensed into a thin circular ring of thickness W H∆/R, yielding an amplification of 8H∆/W, where H∆ is the Earth’s refractive scale height, R is its geopotential radius and W is the detector diameter. These estimates are verified through numerical ray-tracing experiments from optical to 30 µm light with standard atmospheric models. The numerical experiments are extended to include extinction from both a clear atmosphere and one with clouds. It is found that a detector at one Hill radius is least affected by extinction since lensed rays travel no deeper than 13.7 km, within the statosphere and above most clouds. Including extinction, a 1 metre Hill radius “terrascope” is calculated to produce an amplification of ∼45, 000 for a lensing timescale of ∼20 hours. In practice, the amplification is likely halved in order to avoid daylight scattering i.e. 22, 500 (∆mag=10.9) for W =1 m, or equivalent to a 150 m optical/infrared telescope.
Read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1908.00490.pdf
Using Earth to See Across the Universe: The Terrascope with Dr. David Kipping:
Read also: “The Terrascope – Using Earth As A Lens“