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
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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )
Related News Stories -
Shimuzu Luna Ring Solar Power Project
'This was really free power... Power carried across millions of miles on Addison's tight-beam principle.'- Clifford Simak, 1941.
Robot Kirobo Talks With Astronauts Aboard ISS
Robots now converse in space. With humans.
NASA's LADEE Enters Lunar Orbit
'... dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.' - Hal Clement, 1956.
Nuclear Interceptors Designed For Planetary Protection
See NASA's concept for a nuclear interceptor.
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.
Can You Detect The Robot Journalist?
'... A vast complex electronic organism buried deep in the ground.'
Space Replay - Art Or Rover?
What is Space Replay? That would be telling.
CUPID Intercept Drone Like Niven's Copseye
'Copseyes floated overhead... each a sonic stunner... they were there to enforce the law...'
DIY Taser-Proof Clothing
'His suit-shield sucked in the energy and discharged it...'
Is Privacy Too Expensive?
'It was not a large office, but it was quite spy-proof and quite undetectably so.'
Navy Deploys LaWS First Ship-Borne Laser
When you hear that music, you know you're in for adventure - and predictions of possible technological futures!
Myo Armband Controller Just 149 Bucks
'Actuators touch the tendons in your right wrist...'
Can Gut Bacteria Make You Smarter?
'Vergil had trained the lymphocytes in the past six months to interact as much as possible with each other and with their environment...'
Shimuzu Luna Ring Solar Power Project
'This was really free power... Power carried across millions of miles on Addison's tight-beam principle.'
AllSee Low Power Gesture Recognition
'It saved a lot of muscular expenditure, of course...'
Must Breaking Up Be Hard To Do?
'Whoever was placed inside the apparatus instantaneously experienced all the charms, lures, wiles, winks and witchery of all the fairer sex in the Universe at once.'
PillCam Colon Now Approved By FDA
'You're going to take a picture of my insides?'
RYNO To Heinlein - Your Tumblebug Is Ready!
'It is about the size and shape of a kitchen stool, gyro-stabilized on a single wheel...'
3D Printing Your Winter Reality
'It makes drawings in the air following drawings it scans with photo-cells...'
Roboroach Now Shipping!
'A cable, here, from the controller to the interface plug... wires from that to the brain.'
MeCam Selfie Nano Drone Like Karen Traviss' Bee Cam
'He set his camera to follow him, and it hovered behind him like a large tame bee.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories