The “Terrascope”

On the Possibility of Using the Earth as an Atmospheric Lens


Illustration of a detector of diameter W utilizing the terrascope. Two rays of different impact parameters, but the same wavelength, lens through the atmosphere and strike the detector. The ring formed by those two rays enables a calculation of the amplification. In this setup, the detector is precisely on-axis

David Kipping
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.


Using Earth to See Across the Universe: The Terrascope with Dr. David Kipping:

Read also: “The Terrascope – Using Earth As A Lens

Estimating the Moon to Earth radius ratio with a smartphone, a telescope and an eclipse

Hugo Caerols, Felipe A. Asenjo
On January 20th, 2019, a total lunar eclipse was possible to be observed in Santiago, Chile. Using a smartphone attached to a telescope, photographs of the phenomenon were taken. With Earth’s shadow on those images, and using textbook geometry, a simple open-source software and analytical procedures, we were allowed to calculate the ratio between the radii of the Moon and the Earth. The results are in very good agreement with the correct value for such ratio. This shows the strength of the smartphone technology to get powerful astronomical results in a very simple way and in a very short amount of time.

Weighing the Sun with five photographs

Hugo Caerols, Felipe A. Asenjo
With only five photographs of the Sun at different dates we show that the mass of Sun can be calculated by using a telescope, a camera, and the third Kepler’s law. With the photographs we are able to calculate the distance from Sun to Earth at different dates along four months. These distances allow us to obtain the correct elliptical orbit of Earth, proving the first Kepler’s law. The analysis of the data extracted from photographs is performed by using an analitical optimization approach that allow us to find the parameters of the elliptical orbit. Also, it is shown that the five data points fit an ellipse using an geometrical scheme. The obtained parameters are in very good agreement with the ones for Earth’s orbit, allowing us to foresee the future positions of Earth along its trajectory. The parameters for the orbit are used to calculate the Sun’s mass by applying the third Kepler’s law. This method gives a result wich is in excellent agreement with the correct value for the Sun’s mass. Thus, in a span of time of four months, any student is capable to calculate the mass of the sun with only five photographs, a telescope and a camera.
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FCC-ee: Your Questions Answered

This document answers in simple terms many FAQs about FCC-ee, including comparisons with other colliders. It complements the FCC-ee CDR and the FCC Physics CDR by addressing many questions from non-experts and clarifying issues raised during the European Strategy symposium in Granada, with a view to informing discussions in the period between now and the final endorsement by the CERN Council in 2020 of the European Strategy Group recommendations. This document will be regularly updated as more questions appear or new information becomes available.

Baseline FCC tunnel layout with a perimeter of 97.5 km, and ptimized placement in the Geneva basin, showing the main topographical and geological features.


A quick how-to user-guide to debunking pseudoscientific claims

Maxim Sukharev
Have you ever wondered why we have never heard of psychics and palm readers winning millions of dollars in state or local lotteries or becoming Wall Street wolfs? Neither have I. Yet we are constantly bombarded by tabloid news on how vaccines cause autism (hint: they do not), or some unknown firm building a mega-drive that defies the laws of physics (nope, that drive does not work either). And the list continues on and on and on. Sometimes it looks quite legit as, say, various natural vitamin supplements that supposedly increase something that cannot be increased, or enhance something else that is most likely impossible to enhance by simply swallowing a few pills. Or constantly evolving diets that sure work giving a false relieve to those who really need to stop eating too much and actually pay frequent visits to a local gym. It is however understandable that most of us fall for such products and news just because we cannot be experts in everything, and we tend to trust various mass-media sources without even a glimpse of skepticism. So how can we distinguish between baloney statements and real exciting scientific discoveries and breakthroughs? In what follows I will try to do my best to provide a simple how-to user guide to debunking pseudoscientific claims.

Exploring Gravitational Lensing

Einstein’s derivation of the lensing equation, solution, and amplification in AEA 62-275 (Albert Einstein Archives, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel)

Tilman Sauer, Tobias Schütz
In this article, we discuss the idea of gravitational lensing, from a systematic, historical and didactic point of view. We show how the basic lensing equation together with the concepts of geometrical optics opens a space of implications that can be explored along different dimensions. We argue that Einstein explored the idea along different pathways in this space of implication, and that these explorations are documented by different calculational manuscripts. The conceptualization of the idea of gravitational lensing as a space of exploration also shows the feasibility of discussing the idea in the classroom using some of Einstein’s manuscripts.
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