Gravitational Lens of the Sun: Its Potential for Observations and Communications over Interstellar Distances

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Science  14 Sep 1979:
Vol. 205, Issue 4411, pp. 1133-1135
DOI: 10.1126/science.205.4411.1133


The gravitational field of the sun acts as a spherical lens to magnify the intensity of radiation from a distant source along a semi-infinite focal line. A spacecraft anywhere on that line in principle could observe, eavesdrop, and communicate over interstellar distances, using equipment comparable in size and power with what is now used for interplanetary distances. If one neglects coronal effects, the maximum magnification factor for coherent radiation is inversely proportional to the wavelength, being 100 million at 1 millimeter. The principal difficulties are that the nearest point on the focal half-line is about 550 times the sun-earth distance, separate spacecraft would be needed to work with each stellar system of interest, and the solar corona would severely limit the intensity of coherent radiation while also restricting operations to relatively short wavelengths.