61 photos of the December 21st 2010 Lunar eclipse, taken in 2 minutes intervals.
Scientists work out way to use pulsars to provide self navigation to spacecraft in solar system
A trio of German space scientists has worked out a way to use pulsars as navigation aids for space vehicles traveling in the solar system. As they describe in their paper uploaded to the preprint server arXiv, the method relies on reading information from at least three pulsars to triangulate location information.
The current method of navigation for spacecraft is to send radio waves back to Earth—scientists can calculate its distance by noting how long the radio waves take to reach them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help to figure out its angular position. Generally, that’s not a problem, however, because of the vast distances between objects in the solar system—it’s likely to become more of an issue in the future, though, as space travel becomes more common. What’s needed, scientists say, is a way for spacecraft to keep tabs on their position without assistance from Earth. That’s what the team in Germany has done, using pulsars as guides.