https://www.centauri-dreams.org/2020/12 ... io-bridge/

The FOCAL Radio Bridge

by Paul Gilster on December 14, 2020

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Can gravitational lensing help? We’ve seen that the Sun’s mass shapes spacetime around it, bending light from targets on the other side so that electromagnetic waves come to a focal point about 550 AU out. The implications for imaging are under intense study at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where Slava Turyshev’s team, working with a Phase III NIAC grant, is exploring “Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an Exoplanet with a Solar Gravitational Lens Mission,” taking two prior studies, a Phase I and II at NIAC, forward in terms of imaging.

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The Gravitational Lens as Relay

How is this possible? There are a lot of issues here, but we can start with Bit Error Rate, which has to do with the quality of a signal. Specifically, BER is the number of erroneous bits received divided by the total number of bits transmitted. We can compare the Bit Error Rate across interstellar distances with and without the gravitational lens effect, as Maccone first did in a 2011 paper. I’m going to use that paper and his recent presentation to examine the results and what they mean for current thinking about missions.

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The paper is Maccone, “Interstellar Radio Links Enhanced by Exploiting the Sun as a Gravitational Lens,” Acta Astronautica Vol. 68, Issues 1-2 (January-February 2011), pp. 76-84 (abstract/full text).