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Space Science

Worlds Largest Telescope? 29

AndersBrownworth writes "With a unique take on "Distributed Computing", the PhotonStar Project aims to search for laser transmissions from extra terrestrial life by harnessing amateur astronomers who have an optical telescope with a laser detector, a GPS and a computer with a net connection. I think it would be interesting to get a large number of computer controlled optical telescopes together that have GPS and CCD capabilities and build the world's largest optical telescope. The concept wouldn't be much different from New Mexico's VLA Radio Telescope. Given the falling prices of computer controlled optical telescopes, a project like this might not be far off."
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Worlds Largest Telescope?

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  • by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @01:50PM (#6401495) Homepage
    The project requires you know the position of your telescope to within 1 foot in all lattitude, longitude, and altitude. (Timing is critical and you need to know if a pulse arrived within a nanosecond of each other. 1 nanosecond is about 1 foot.) Standard GPS gives you somewhere around 15-30 foot accuracy at best. How are they planning on getting the needed positional accuracy if GPS doesn't provide it?

    I do remember quite a while ago NASA developing some statistical method of getting extremely accurate GPS positional data from taking masses of GPS data over many weeks (IIRC it was accurate to something like centimeters). Unfortunately it was just a newspaper article, so the details were lacking. Could this be how they plan on getting the accurate positional data? Anyone know more about this?
  • by Doctor Fishboy ( 120462 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @04:24PM (#6402783)
    This is an interesting method, because it really irons out systematic effects due to the local patch of atmosphere above any one telescope.

    The atmospheric turbulence causes 'scintillation' of starlight (a rapid, small variation in stellar brightness), and for the very short exposures they're proposing, it'd be difficult with just one telescope to pull out an ET laser modulated signal from the atmospheric generated scintillation.

    Distributed telescopes with accurate positions would pull out a laser signal very easily.

    Cute trick.

    Dr Fish

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