Satellite navigation system could steer men beyond solar systemPublished On: Thu, Mar 29th, 2012 | Technology | By BioNews
Scientists have apparently cracked a new system for navigation in deep space, which uses pulsars (neutron stars) as ‘beacons’ to guide spaceships through other stars and even into interstellar space.
The system is reminiscent of sailors steering using the stars and the moon – but using neutron stars to set a course precisely through the universe, the Daily Mail reported.
The new system would use X-ray light from pulsars to ‘triangulate’ a position in space and it works everywhere in the universe to within a few miles.
When stars much more gigantic than our Sun reach the end of their lives, their final demise is marked by a dramatic supernova explosion that obliterates most of the star.
But many leave behind compact, incredibly dense remnants called neutron stars. Those detected have strong magnetic fields that focus emission into two extremely directional beams.
The neutron star rotates speedily and if the beam points in the direction of the Earth, a pulse of radiation can be seen at extremely regular intervals — hence the name pulsar.
A team from German’s Max Planck institute are developing a navigation technology for spacecraft based on the regular emission of X-ray light from pulsars.
Their periodic signals have timing stabilities comparable to atomic clocks and offer characteristic time signatures that can be used as natural navigation beacons, similar to the use of GPS satellites for navigation on Earth.
By contrasting the arrival times of the pulses measured on board the navigator spacecraft with those predicted at a reference location, the spacecraft position can be determined with an accuracy of few miles, everywhere in the solar system and far beyond.
“Looking forward, it’s incredibly exciting to think that we have now the technology to chart our route to other stars and may even be able to help our descendants take their first steps into interstellar space,” Professor Becker said. (ANI)