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Telescopes keep getting bigger — and more expensive. But what if there were a better way?

One astronomer has suggested a possible work-around: Turn the entire Earth into a telescope lens by using the planet’s atmosphere to bend and focus light.

When light from stars hits Earth’s atmosphere, the light bends, or refracts. That bending concentrates the rays, focusing them in a region of space on the opposite side of the planet. Put a spacecraft in the right spot — say, orbiting 1.5 million kilometers from Earth — and it could catch the focused rays, says David Kipping of Columbia University (SN: 10/14/17, p. 22).

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