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Space Earth Technology

1.4 Billion Pixel Camera To Watch For Asteroids 138

SpaceSlug writes "The world's largest digital camera is to be used to keep an eye out for asteroids heading towards Earth. The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) has been built by researchers at MIT's Lincoln Lab. At its heart is a 1.4 billion pixel (or 1400 megapixel) camera that will scan the night sky looking for rogue near-Earth objects from atop Mount Haleakala in Maui Island, Hawaii. The system uses something called an orthogonal transfer CCD to remove atmospheric blur from images."
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1.4 Billion Pixel Camera To Watch For Asteroids

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  • Kodak moment (Score:2, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @01:52PM (#25888583)

    Well, it's almost as good as what the NSA uses to spy on you with. Aren't you glad we have our priorities straight in this country?

  • Re:Singularity (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @01:56PM (#25888641)
    Aaaannnd... that's the story of why I removed the karma "Subscriber Bonus +1"
  • Re:Pending Doom (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Last_Available_Usern ( 756093 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @01:58PM (#25888661)
    The problem with illiciting action is proving risk. No ones going to mitigate a one in a million possibility. However, if you find some near-Earth objects that you can show have a 25% chance of hitting the Earth in the next 50 years, you might see a lot more development in the way of mitigation (or disaster planning at least).
  • Re:Pending Doom (Score:5, Insightful)

    by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:18PM (#25888983)

    For starters, it's worth worrying about asteroids that would merely destroy a city rather than end life as we know it. And, if you spot them early, there are a number of techniques that could deflect them. With plenty of time to work, small changes in velocity can cause large changes in position years in the future -- turning an impact into a near miss. This is especially true if there is a close approach to another body before the impact, as small changes in position at the approach turn into larger changes in velocity.

    If you only need a tiny course correction, there are plenty of options. A gravitational tug, for example (put a spacecraft near the asteroid, use ion engines to maintain position, and let gravitational forces pull the asteroid toward the ship, and vice versa). That lets you use an ion engine to nudge the asteroid without solving the problems of landing on it or grabbing it. If you can get away with even less total impulse, you can simply paint a large portion of it white and let light pressure from the Sun do the work for you.

    Things like large rocket engines and nuclear blasts are crude, blunt instruments; if you have warning, a more subtle approach is appropriate.

  • Re:Pending Doom (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HarvardAce ( 771954 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:43PM (#25889319) Homepage

    With plenty of time to work, small changes in velocity can cause large changes in position years in the future -- turning an impact into a near miss.

    Or, given the fact that even the most advanced prediction algorithms still have to cut some corners (therefore leading to some uncertainty), it could turn a near miss into an impact.

  • by MaxwellEdison ( 1368785 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:56PM (#25889509)
    Anyyone aboard the ISS who goes "Oh noes" should immediately be sent out of the airlock, sans suit.

"Only a brain-damaged operating system would support task switching and not make the simple next step of supporting multitasking." -- George McFry