Extremely thin lightweight lenses take amazing images of the universe

An image of the North America Nebula taken with the metalens

Courtesy of Joon-Suh Park

To take high-quality images of the stars, astronomers usually need thick, curved lenses to bend the light precisely. But researchers have designed a flat lens that can take sharp images of the night sky thanks to billions of nanostructures in the material. It is lightweight and resilient to damage, so it could eventually be incorporated into satellites.

These so-called “metalenses” use metamaterials and tend to be hundreds of times thinner than conventional lenses. One metalens can often replace several …

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