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 ")

The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...' - Jack Williamson, 1933.

Pent-Up NASA Scientists Simulate Life On Mars
'That gives it complete isolation.' - David H. Keller, 1932.

Dust Movement On The Moon, Saturn's Rings Solved
'...The dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.' - Hal Clement, 1956.

Axiom - The World's First Private Space Station?
'So Webb Foster had built his space laboratory... It was a great crystal sphere, a thousand feet in diameter.' - Nat Schachner, 1937.

 

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

Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
'I cannot lie idle under attack.'

When Computers Develop Their Own Language, Will They Talk To Us?
'The curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio...'

LipNet Reads Lips - Until Disconnected, That Is
'We'd have to cut his higher brain functions... I'm not sure what [HAL} would think about that.'

Eterni.me - To Skype With The Dead
'Nothing... left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'

Wearable MRI Is Former Occulus/Facebook Exec's New Project
'Your cephalochromoscope... that you always turn on and play when you get home...'

Ford Stratasys Infinte Build 3D Printer
'He proudly indicated his Buick... Almost as good as the original it was printed from...'

The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...'

Dune Fans! Your God Emperor Is Ready
'If one held a sandtrout in the hand, smoothing it over your skin, it formed a living glove.'

Robot Strolls Field, Examines EVERY Plant
'The great machines that did the work ... required but a few dozen men to cultivate an entire county.'

Sweden Outlaws Drones
'An eye that could not only see, but fly, roam, travel at speeds and in directions to suit its operator...'

Wear Your Self-Powered Generator
'It's basically a micro-sandwich...'

TITAN-III Spider Robot Is WAY Too Quick (Video)
'My little friends can find you wherever you go!'

Bill Gates Suggests Tax On Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot that 'appears or pretends to be human' had to be compensated...'

Handle, New Wheeled Hopping Robot
'the hopper sprang thirty feet into the air...'

Matrix Sentinel Ancestor, The Pipe Inspector Robot From Krakow
Watch out, Keanu!

Auto-Focus Smart Glasses Have Liquid Lenses
'Hufhuf oil held in static tension by an enclosing force field within a viewing tube...'

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.