Cruising the Solar System? Try Pulsar Navigation!

1910 Views | Published on 23rd Jan, 2018

What do you do when you're out of range of the global GPS system? Use Pulsars!

Satellites must have a means to navigate in order to be useful for science, communications and technology. Once satellites move away from the proximity of Earth, and travel through the solar system, and perhaps beyond, they need an accurate system to determine their location. This is done by communicating with facilities on or near the Earth to do this. Now spacecraft navigation could be possible using the stars, specifically pulsars. These rapidly spinning objects, produced as the end stage of massive stars, give off very regular pulses that can be detected and used to pinpoint a spacecraft's location. This technique has been tested and could prove to be a new way to steer through space. Note that the Voyager and Pioneer spacecrafts carry a map that pinpoints Earth relative to several known pulsars!

Join Tony Darnell and Carol Christian during Afternoon Astronomy Coffee on January 25th at 3PM Eastern Time as they discuss with Zaven Arzoumanian, Keith Gendreau, Jason Mitchell, and Luke Winternitz of Goddard Space Flight Center the demonstration of this technique along with interesting science results from the NICER instrument on the International Space Station (ISS).

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