XNAV Steer Your Way By X-Ray Pulsar

XNAV - or X-ray Navigation - could be the GPS of the solar system (or even the galaxy). X-ray astronomers have mapped a substantial number of x-ray pulsars whose pulsed emissions are as regular as atomic clocks. Several papers will be presented at the IEE/ION PLANS 2008 conference describing how this idea could be applied for spacecraft navigation.

An X-ray pulsar is a magnetized neutron star in a binary star system with a normal companion star. The strength of the magnetic field of a neutron star is a trillion times as large as the Earth's magnetic field strength measured on the Earth's surface.


(X-ray pulsarx-ray pulsar)

Material from the companion star is taken in by the neutron companion, directed into the magnetic poles. This gas falls into the neutron star at speeds of up to half the speed of light; the resulting hotspots generate temperatures of more than a million degrees. As the neutron star rotates, these polar hotspots produce regular pulses of x-ray radiation like lighthouses.

These sources are highly reliable, and are fixed in position. Phase measurements of these sources can be used to establish the location of a spacecraft.

Several different improvements to the use of X-ray Navigation have been proposed. In Noise Analysis for X-ray Navigation Systems, it is suggested that the performance of an XNAV system beyond the orbit of Jupiter could be accurately predicted.

In Online Time Delay Estimation of Pulsar Signals for Relative Navigation using Adaptive Filters it is suggested that the positions of two spacecraft could be determined if both are locked to a known pulsar which emits a waveform that reaches them with a differential time delay that is proportional to the distance between the spacecrafts. The spacecrafts' relative inertial position could be determined by observing appropriately distributed pulsar sources.

Astronomers have thought long thought about pulsars, which were discovered in 1967, as some kind of interstellar beacon. The incredible regularity - and rapidity - of the signal pulsation seemed (at that time) to have no natural explanation.

However, science fiction writers thought about it at least fifteen years earlier. And what's more, suggested that it might be possible to create beacons. In his 1952 story Troubled Star, George O. Smith wrote about space beacons which were created to ease galactic space travel:

"We use the three-day variable to denote the galactic travel lanes. Very effective. We use the longer variable types for other things - dangerous places like cloud-drifts, or a dead sun that might be as deadly to a spacecraft as a shoal is to a seagoing vessel. It's all very logical."

"...you're going to make a variable star out of Sol, just for this?"

Scyth Radnor shook his head. "Please do not think us hard... You're not going to insist that your animal comforts are more important than the functioning of a galaxy-wide civilization?"
(Read more about space beacons)

From IEE/ION PLANS 2008 via io9.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/8/2008)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

NASA Gives Away Rocket Code - For Dads
'The rocket thundered and leaped. The children danced in their hammocks, screaming.'- Ray Bradbury, 1952.

Automated Planet Finder Telescope Starts The Hunt
'I was near enough it now to set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching it for a habitable planet.'- Edmond Hamilton, 1936.

Spacesuit Z-2: NASA Wants You To Pick Their Next Design
'Al was hastily donning his space suit...'- Schachner and Zagat, 1931.

Can 'Dimers' Be Used For Star Trek's Long Range Sensors?
From 'Using Dimers to Measure Biosignatures and Atmospheric Pressure for Terrestrial Exoplanets'.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Augmented Reality Ship's Bridge From Rolls Royce
'... the immense, three-dimensional, minutely cubed model...'

Artificial Blood From Factories
This blood's for you.

Wrigley's Anti-Impotence Chewing Gum
'Chew one of these, Mr. Chip.'

Arcology Now Universal Constructor
'... the hotel direly wanted to exist.'

MisTable Fog Display Like SeaQuest DSV
Captain Bridger, a message is coming in.

Full-Size Invisibility Cloak Now Possible
'I donned it and drew its hood, and threw on its current.'

Bioengineered Muscle Grows In Mice
'Joeboys... shoulders bulging with grafted muscle.'

Self-Assembling Nanoparticles Move Like Tiny Gears
'Microscopic machinery, smaller than ants, smaller than pins, working energetically...'

PredPol Predicting Crime As It Happens
'All day long the idiots babbled...'

UK Internet Filters Default To 'Family-Friendly'
'People bought personalized filter programs...'

NASA Gives Away Rocket Code - For Dads
'The rocket thundered and leaped. The children danced in their hammocks, screaming.'

Automated Planet Finder Telescope Starts The Hunt
'I was near enough it now to set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching it for a habitable planet.'

Crabster CR200 Robot Prowls The Deep
'The handling-machine did not impress me as a machine, but as a crablike creature...'

Neither Dead Nor Alive - But Not In Suspended Animation
'...Can he be brought out of the cold-pack?'

Dolphin Whistle Translator
'Louis could hear the other translator discs whistling softly in Puppeteer, snarling quietly in the Hero's Tongue.'

Military Tech Inside Your Roomba?
What else can Roomba do?

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.