Test first “interstellar GPS”

In games on November 22, 2010 at 7:13 am

Today, determine our position is extremely simple thanks to the GPS technology. A bit of hardware, other software, and some satellites in orbit may provide this information in seconds. But if we take this objective to a spatial scale, things get complicated in equal proportion. As Einstein said, everything is relative, and therefore determine the position of the Earth in space is a huge challenge.However, a group of Italian researchers has developed something similar to a “interstellar GPS“, using radio waves emitted by distant, pulsars as points of reference.

Where we are and where we go can be two issues with an important philosophical depth, but at the same time are the root to determine if we are missing or not. In normal cases we use a mix of references and memory to know our position, but when it is necessary to cover large distances or reach truly complex areas, the GPS comes to the rescue. It can be installed in our car, available on our mobile or integrated to another device, and slowly being transformed from “technological privilege” to “common function” these days.We can now, we know easily what place on earth we are.But what happens to the earth itself?

Constancy of pulsars is allowing you to calculate the position

In toxic excess of obviousness, the space is large, and while it is possible to calculate or estimate trajectories of celestial objects, determine its position with total accuracy is something much more complicated. The Sun can serve as a “local” reference, but at the Galactic level not. The center of the milky way can be used to determine an intergalactic position but universally nor is it appropriate. You need something far more accurate, and a group of researchers at the Politecnico di Torino used as pulsars as points of reference.Formidable constancy of pulsars of emit radio waves allowed researchers to determine the position of the Earth in space, but there is a problem. In the test used the Parkes telescope in Australia, which only can track a single pulsar at once. A conventional GPS system requires at least three satellites to determine a location with a minimum of precision, whereas in this case need four pulsars. For this reason, they turned to a software called TEMPO2 to simulate signals known pulsars hearing if they were detected by the telescope simultaneously.

This shortcut is used to verify that the methodology use of pulsars as interstellar lighthouses is correct, but the results are far from being precise.Apart from using simulations, ever-present relativity complicates the scheme, due to tremendous speeds that move objects in space.However, the level of precision could increase if the flow of data is kept constant until reaching a margin of error of a few hundred meters.This would be more than enough to determine planetary positions, something which in future could be used by spacecraft.Sci-fi carries more than 50 years in anticipation of the use of interstellar lighthouses to determine positions.But in the same way in which the GPS is something common to us today may interstellar GPS have the same value for future generations.


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