Hi, all. I just wanted to offer a suggestion, if it wouldn't be too presumptuous of me to do so, aimed at any group/institution/university/etc.
Seeing as humankind is going to be exploring beyond our solar system at some point in the relatively near future, we need to prepare for such space-trotting by mapping our Milky Way galaxy more accurately, with as precise a 3-D rendering as we can get.
One way of increasing the accuracy of our measurements is to use the method of triangulation. For this we would need at least two space telescopes; three would be better. We already have one around Earth. The second telescope should be placed in orbit around one our neighbouring planets. Mars would be a great candidate, while Jupiter or even Saturn would be better.
The farther these two telescopes are from each other, the more accurate their distance calculations to neighbouring stars will be. The great thing about placing the second telescope in orbit around a neighbouring planet is that the distance between the two telescopes would increase astronomically simply by waiting for the two planets to be as far away from each other as their orbits will allow. The maximum distance between Earth and Mars is 401 million km, the maximum distance between Earth and Jupiter is 928 million km, while the maximum distance between Earth and Saturn is 1.7 billion km.
That two telescopes would be better than one in determining distance is illustrated by one of nature’s most ingenious biological designs: our eyes. We and most other animals have two eyes for a very good reason; namely, to determine distance. Try this simple experiment… Hold one hand over one of your eyes and scan the horizon with your open eye. Notice how it becomes harder and harder to judge the distance of the objects you see? Open both eyes once again and you will instantly notice how having two eyes ads depth to our vision.
How so? Quite simple, really. The distance between our two eyes, however slight, gives each eye a slightly different perspective when observing the same object. Since each eye has a slightly different line of sight, the object will appear to be in different locations against the background. If the object is very close to us, its position against the background will vary by quite a large amount as seen by each eye. Whereas if the object is very far from us, its position against the background will vary considerably less from the perspective of each eye. Our brain rapidly compares the placement of an object against its background as seen by each eye to instantly determine not only whether the object is near or far, but also if the object is moving.
But some may argue that stars are much too distant for two telescopes to have any advantage over one telescope at determining the distance to them. Yes, but our two eyes are only a few centimetres apart, and yet we can easily notice the difference between a house close by and the mountains way off in the distance behind it. Our two telescopes, therefore, need not be solar systems apart to provide us with more accurate distance measurements. Having them a billion km apart or even half a billion would be plenty.
Such triangulation would also assist greatly in the detection of planets around other stars. For instance, one method used to detect planets around distant stars is to measure how the star’s luminosity changes (ever so slightly) whenever a planet passes in front of its star as seen from Earth. Were we to train two telescopes a billion km apart onto the same event, we would not only be able to confirm such dimming of the star’s light, but, in comparing the different dimness from each telescope, we would also be able to plot the planet’s distance from its star and determine if it lies within the star’s “Goldilocks zone”, an orbital distance not too close nor too far to have liquid water which greatly increases its probability of supporting life similar to ours.
Just thought I would pass along this suggestion to put a telescope in orbit around one of our neighbouring planets for the more accurate mapping of space, as well as to aid in the locating of potentially habitable nearby planets.
Thanks. Have a great day.