X-Ray Pulsar 'Beacons' To Guide Spacecraft

X-Ray pulsars can be used to triangulate the position of space craft to within a few kilometers, according to scientists at the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany.


(Artist’s impression of Rosetta, if it navigated in deep space using pulsar signals)

Werner Becker and his team are developing a novel 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 provide characteristic time signatures that can be used as natural navigation beacons, similar to the use of GPS satellites for navigation on Earth.

By comparing 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 kilometers, everywhere in the Solar System and far beyond.

[Becker:] “These X-ray beacons could augment the existing GPS/Galileo satellite navigation systems and provide autonomous navigation for interplanetary space probes and future manned missions to Mars.”

Science fiction writers of the 1950's were fascinated by this idea. In his 1952 story Troubled Star, George O. Smith described space beacons:

"And what is a beacon?"

"It is a phenomenon caused by the Doppler effect when traveling at galactic speeds. In this case, when coming through this rift at fifteen hundred light years per hour, a three-day variable star will appear to the observer as a rapidly blinking light..."

"We use the three-day variable to denote the galactic travel lanes. Very effective.
(Read more about Smith's space beacon)

In his 1956 story The Repairman, Murray Leinster described a hyperspace beacon:

Every beacon has a code signal as part of its radiation and represents a measurable point in hyperspace. Triangulation and quadrature works for navigation - only it follows its own rules.

For a hyperspace jump, you need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.
(Read more about Harrison's hyperspace beacon)

In 1980, Star Trek Maps was published; it consisted of a set of four maps and an Introduction to Navigation booklet. In the accompanying pamphlet, they described the standard navigation system using "sub-space beacons", and then described the emergency system that used pulsars as a GPS system. It included the real equations as well.


(Star Trek Maps: galactic coordinates and basic vector calculus)

Via AstroBio; thanks to Winchell Chung (aka @nyrath) of Project Rho.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/31/2012)

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 ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Is 'The Pulsar Positioning System' Evidence For SETI?
'For a hyperspace jump, you need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.' - Harry Harrison, 1959.

Are Observed Radio Bursts An Alien Propulsion Technology?
'These cones were driven through space by light pressure, the possibilities of which force they had long utilized.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1929.

Caltech's ET Laboratory Looks For New Earths
'...set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching for a habitable planet.'- Edmond Hamilton, 1936.

Shh! USAF's Secret X-37B Space Plane Breaks Record
'More airplane than spaceship...' - Robert Heinlein, 1951.

 

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

Cattle Avoidance Feature In Indian Autonomous Cars
'The driver went about the business of gently slipping the teflon-coated metal scoop beneath the first animal...'

Project KOVR Fashion Protection From Infosphere
'... the entire shroudlike membrane took on whatever physical characteristics were projected at any nanosecond.'

Twist Bioscience High Density Digital Data On DNA
'They tied the memory to the bloodline and that was their record!'

'We're Not Creating A Terminator' Say Russians About Gun-Wielding Robot Fedor
Nobody is thinking about the Terminator. Westworld, maybe.

Vantablack Now IMMEASURABLY Black
'a black coating now that’s ninety-nine percent absorptive...'

Mercedes-Benz Autonomous Taxi Fleet In 3 Years
'... the taxi utilized sophisticated electronic sensors to perceive its surroundings.'

Is 'The Pulsar Positioning System' Evidence For SETI?
'For a hyperspace jump, you need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.'

Someday, You Might Like VR Enough To Move In
'That barrier was going to melt away someday soon. The transhumanists had promised...'

Humans Use Mental Power For Turtle Slavery
Now we need to start looking for animals with fingers...

Solar-Powered Moisture Vaporator
'The atmosphere yielded its moisture with reluctance.'

DxtER! Tricorder Prize Won By Final Frontier Medical Devices
We've been waiting a long time for this, Star Trek fans.

President Trump's Wall As Otra Nation Hyperloop
'...an hollow tube must be constructed the whole distance... as to admit a four wheeled carriage...'

Pickup Lines From Artificial Intelligences
'They hate us, you know... The humans. They'll stop at nothing.'

Pooper Scooper Drone Robot Watchdog 1
'Robots pick up the garbage and junk...'

Cassie Robot Brings AT-ST Walker To Life
There's even a log test!

Hundreds Of Robot Lawnmowers Invade Texas Town
'The mower reached the edge of the lawn, clucked to itself...'

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.