Few things are as essential to learning more about space than telescopes, and few things are as expensive. The current telescopes that feed us all of the images we get from far out into space use expensive mirrors to do so. Add on the expense of launching the thing into space and it’s no wonder we don’t have more. Fortunately, NASA has a solution, one that involves replacing mirrors with… glitter?
Space telescope Hubble and its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope are made with huge, expensive mirrors. And that can be a problem when you’re paying to launch the thing into space. So instead of one big mirror, how about thousands, or even millions, of tiny ones? In other words, how about glitter? Orbiting Rainbows is in fact a very real system being considered by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. A telescope reflecting light with glitter clouds could potentially be a lot cheaper than the $8.7 billion James Webb Space Telescope. But the initial set-ups testing Orbiting Rainbows are pretty low-tech. Co-investigator Grover Swartzlander at the Rochester Institute of Technology and his team spread glitter on a lens, shined lasers simulating the light of a double star system, and algorithmically reconstructed the twin stars out of the glitter reflection.