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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Scrunchable Space Sieves Could Work as Tiny Foldable Satellite-Borne Telescopes

• Rebecca Boyle via

A perforated plastic sheet carried into space in a microsatellite could serve as a cheap alternative space telescope, according to researchers at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The devices would sift photons like spaceborne cheesecloths.

The imaging device is a “photon sieve,” according to New Scientist, a thin plastic disc with millions of microscopic pinholes. Each hole bends light at a different angle, diffracting light rather than reflecting or refracting it, the way most telescopes work. It can only capture black and white photos, and it wouldn’t be able to resolve distant or dim objects very well because the collecting area is relatively smaller. But it can also be curled up or folded, which glass-mirrored space telescopes can’t do. Until the umbrella-like James Webb Space Telescope proves otherwise, at least.

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