The FOCAL Point

We’ve superceded the abilities of traditional ground based telescopes with devices like the Hubble, but even that can’t let us look as deeply into the universe as we’d like to. However, there is a way to exploit the power of gravity to bring incredibly distant objects into view, and that is gravitational lensing – a phenomenon whereby the immense gravity of a star bends light passing around it just like an optical lens. An Italian astronomer has been pushing this idea for over a decade, claiming that a probe known as FOCAL should be sent out into the solar system far enough to enable the use of our own sun as a gigantic telescope, permitting us to observe distant star systems in sharp detail.