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NASA Considers Sending Telescope To the Outer Solar System

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the research-base-on-ganymede dept.

NASA 152

Nancy_A writes "A mission that astronomers and cosmologists have only dreamed about — until now. A team at JPL and Caltech has been looking into the possibility of hitching an optical telescope to a survey spacecraft on a mission to the outer solar system. Light pollution in our inner solar system, from both the nearby glow of the Sun and the hazy zodiacal glow from dust ground up in the asteroid belt, has long stymied cosmologists looking for a clearer take on the early Universe."

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Upwards? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38432226)

Why couldn't they just send one upwards out of the plane of the solar system? Wouldn't that be quicker?

Re:Upwards? (0)

jez9999 (618189) | about 2 years ago | (#38432240)

Light and gravity travel equally in 3 dimensions.

Re:Upwards? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38432256)

Exactly. The radiation envelope of the solar system is much wider than it is tall. The majority of light-blocking dust is in the plane. So going upwards would get you a clearer view much quicker than going all the way out to the edge along the plane.

Re:Upwards? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38432308)

But there are no survey craft headed in that direction. This sounds like they want to piggyback off some other project.

Plus, you may be able to gather significant radial velocity due to planetary orbits and gravitational slingshots, while acquiring velocity perpendicular to the orbital plane may mainly rely on thrusters, which would be expensive.

Main point being: time is not the problem, expense (in US$) is.

Re:Upwards? (5, Funny)

Ihmhi (1206036) | about 2 years ago | (#38432368)

But there are no survey craft headed in that direction.

When the Zorblaxians invade, it will be because NASA was too lazy to go up or down instead of sideways.

Congratulations! (4, Funny)

clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) | about 2 years ago | (#38432558)

You have managed to come up with a topic for which there is no article in Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] . I am duly impressed.

Re:Upwards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38433304)

Zorblaxians is good! I still like my "dark invader" darth vader, mo bedda. Still, you obviously have a wondrous talent and gift for invention. Sometimes our talents lurk beneath our thoughts, ready to respond to the will, when we ourselves remain unaware.

Re:Upwards? (2)

EricTheRed (5613) | about 2 years ago | (#38432790)

That's true but then you can do both, hitch a ride on a survey craft to say Jupiter & Saturn, then when passing Saturn use it's gravity well to slingshot the craft - with telescope attach in a perpendicular direction.

Thinking about it, the Voyager's are in such a trajectory, both leaving the solar system away from the plane containing the planets.

http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/images/interstellar_1.gif [nasa.gov]

Re:Upwards? (5, Insightful)

rgbatduke (1231380) | about 2 years ago | (#38433048)

Not to be picky, but I don't believe gravitational slingshots work that way. They are basically elastic collisions (mediated by gravity) with a planet, and therefore only give you an increase in velocity if you "recoil" in the direction of motion of the planet. In a nutshell, you borrow a tiny bit of a planet's or moon's forward momentum to come out travelling at twice its speed relative to the Sun. That is, one can slingshot in the ecliptic (in the direction of revolution) and pick up speed, but planets have no velocity/momentum perpendicular to the ecliptic and therefore one cannot borrow any. All one can do with a "collision" that has an outgoing momentum vector perpendicular to the ecliptic is trade around momentum you already have. So single "collisions" won't do.

That means that one requires at least two such collisions/stages to pick up momentum perpendicular to the ecliptic. The first has to do one or more classic slingshots in the plane of the ecliptic to pick up linear momentum. The second has to "collide" with a planet's gravitational well in such a way as to deflect the momentum up or down out of the ecliptic. Sadly, because gravitation is a radial force and conserves angular momentum (in the approximately inertial frame of the collision), one cannot combine the two in a single collision any way I can think of -- you can only pick up slingshot momentum in the plane in a single pass; one cannot also deflect it up.

Voyager (IIRC) did just this sort of things -- engaged in multiple slingshots as it went along both to pick up momentum and energy and to alter direction of that momentum "for free" by selecting specific impact parameters and collision planes with its targets.

But this doesn't make this a bad idea, only a more complicated one than "just" a slingshot off of e.g. the moon. The other nifty thing they could probably manage with such a craft is doing some serious parallax measurements, ones with a baseline much larger than 2 AU. Put a really precise observatory in an orbit out at (say) 20 AU and you extend our ability to measure distances to nearby stars out by a factor of 10 -- 1000 times as many stars, probably even more if getting out of the haze reveals e.g. nearby brown dwarfs and stellar objects that are too faint to see. This in turn could alter things like estimates of the total mass or mass distribution of the galaxy if the numbers turn out to be very different from what we think they are now. So it isn't only a matter of the distant Universe -- the near Universe could benefit from this sort of out-of-ecliptic study, although it is long term science, since the further out you make the orbit, the longer you have to wait for a full parallax baseline.

rgb

Re:Upwards? (4, Informative)

agentgonzo (1026204) | about 2 years ago | (#38433106)

Not to be picky, but I don't believe gravitational slingshots work that way. They are basically elastic collisions (mediated by gravity) with a planet, and therefore only give you an increase in velocity if you "recoil" in the direction of motion of the planet. In a nutshell, you borrow a tiny bit of a planet's or moon's forward momentum to come out travelling at twice its speed relative to the Sun.

Yes, they can do that. It is essentially an elastic collision as you say, but it doesn't have to result in the gained momentum being in the same direction as the planet's motion. Extrapolating your analogy, if you had an elastic collision between the probe and a high-latitude region of the planet (rather than at the equator) then your resulting trajectory would have a 'vertical' (meaning perpendicular to the ecliptic) component. This can be done by having your encounter with the planet you are using to gain the gravitational assist happen at a high inclination. Take a look at Voyager 2. From a quick wiki search, it's currently travelling on a trajectory 30 below the ecliptic after it's encounter with Neptune and Triton.

Re:Upwards? (1)

Convector (897502) | about 2 years ago | (#38434750)

Momentum is a vector quantity, so you do have to worry about direction. The gained momentum doesn't have to be in the planet's current direction of motion, but you'll have to make the exchange such that the momenta of the spacecraft and planet change in opposite directions.

The relevant quantity here is really _angular_ momentum, since we're talking about orbits. Any spacecraft launched from Earth will start with the Earth's angular momentum resulting from its orbit around the Sun. So the angular momentum vector points out of the plane of the solar system. If you want to move the s/c out of that plane, you'll have to dump your angular momentum into some planetary body, and get some more with a vector in the ecliptic plane. To do that, you need to make a flyby at high inclination, as you suggest. There's a LOT of angular momentum to be changed here, so you want the biggest planet you can get hold of, i.e. Jupiter.

Re:Upwards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38435200)

The relevant quantity here is really _angular_ momentum, since we're talking about orbits. Any spacecraft launched from Earth will start with the Earth's angular momentum resulting from its orbit around the Sun

More precisely, the spacecraft launched from earth will have angular momentum, relative to the sun, equal to what it had when it was sitting on Earth...

Its angular velocity (relative to the sun) will be equal to the Earth's however.

Re:Upwards? (1)

EricTheRed (5613) | about 2 years ago | (#38433374)

Yes I meant to say (at least I was thinking) the last slingshot wouldn't need to gain momentum, just change the trajectory - the momentum being gained from any previous encounters.

If this is a telescope then you don't necessarily want extra momentum just a change in trajectory out of the plane of the ecliptic - although the timescales involved even this wouldn't add to much when you think how far both Voyagers have got since they were launched. Even they are power starved now so any telescope out there wouldn't last as long.

As for parallax observing the other issue there would be the time to wait for a full baseline observation of a specific object - would the instrument still be in operation when the second observation is to be made? Possible but again it's down to power consumption

Re:Upwards? (1)

dmgxmichael (1219692) | about 2 years ago | (#38433954)

Not to be picky, but I don't believe gravitational slingshots work that way.

They do work that way. It's been done. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Upwards? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#38432918)

This sounds like they want to piggyback off some other project.

Makes me wonder how big this thing is going to be. Presumably not Hubble sized because the mass has to be shared with the main survey craft.

Re:Upwards? (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 2 years ago | (#38434984)

while acquiring velocity perpendicular to the orbital plane may mainly rely on thrusters, which would be expensive.

Again, no. You can slingshot by approaching the southern hemisphere of a planet, and be catapulted perpendicularily to the ecliptic, exiting from the northen hemisphere of the catapulting planet - it makes no difference.

There might be a miniscule gravitational pull towards the plane, but that's nothing compared to the one originating from its main contributor, the Sun.

Xena (1)

Sussurros (2457406) | about 2 years ago | (#38432322)

There just happens to be a very interesting planet off plane that would be well worth visiting.

Re:Xena (3, Informative)

Coisiche (2000870) | about 2 years ago | (#38432668)

Xena was just a temporary suggestion for the name; since 13th September 2006 it's actually been called Eris [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Xena (1)

Sussurros (2457406) | about 2 years ago | (#38432720)

But Xena is much more fun than Eris, and while Xena was a planet, Eris is a minor planet, which for some strange reason that defies my comprehension is no longer a planet at all - at least among the press and the astronomers who speak to the press. It's all moot though because as Sockatume explained, you can't gravity assist off the plane - actually I'm guessing you can, but only a little and not enough.

Re:Upwards? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38432344)

Yes, but it's possibly worth bearing in mind that the telescope leaves earth with significant velocity in the plane, at a tangent to Earth's orbit. To send it "up" (i.e., at a normal to the Earth's orbital plane) you would need to shed that significant velocity, and even then it would be just going "up" in a straight line; it wouldn't be in an orbit around the sun or anything.

Of course, for getting "a clearer view much quicker" such a trajectory may be sufficient, but I'd be interested if anyone knowledgeable could comment on the practicalities of sending something in that direction with a sufficiently useful velocity (whether sufficiently useful means to escape the sun's gravity well, or merely to reach a useful "height" fast enough, and stay there long enough before being dragged back in towards the sun).

Re:Upwards? (1)

randomencounter (653994) | about 2 years ago | (#38433298)

That would be the traded velocity component. You trade speed for direction using a planetary gravity well as intermediary and you end up in a nice solar orbit at a high inclination.

Re:Upwards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38434878)

OK, thanks. It's becoming a bit clearer now, thanks to your comment and others in this thread.

I guess what came to mind was the old argument about it being too difficult to just dump radioactive waste into the sun because of the delta v of Earth's orbit; but having just had a quick google I see that's not really the problem at all -- the problem would be the trajectory of the waste if you screw up the slingshot procedure (or more likely, the launch).

Re:Upwards? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#38433552)

going upwards would get you a clearer view much quicker than going all the way out to the edge along the plane.

Yes, but you wouldn't be able to use any planetary slingshot maneuvers along the way to gain speed...

Re:Upwards? (2)

dmgxmichael (1219692) | about 2 years ago | (#38433916)

IANARS (I am not a rocket scientist) but from what little I do not getting into a solar polar orbit is extremely difficult. To date only one probe I know of has done this - Ulysses. And to do it required a Jupiter gravity assist to get it there. Besides, getting into a polar orbit will not reduce the glare of the sun. Finally, it will probably take less propellant to exit the solar system than take a grav slingshot into solar polar orbit.

Now if you can get really far out (400 - 500 AU) you can use the sun as a gravitational lens - that distance is the approximate focal point of the sun as a lens. That could make for some interesting observations.

Re:Upwards? (1)

Strider- (39683) | about 2 years ago | (#38434274)

IANARS (I am not a rocket scientist) but from what little I do not getting into a solar polar orbit is extremely difficult. To date only one probe I know of has done this - Ulysses. And to do it required a Jupiter gravity assist to get it there. Besides, getting into a polar orbit will not reduce the glare of the sun. Finally, it will probably take less propellant to exit the solar system than take a grav slingshot into solar polar orbit.

It's actually not hard (Ulysses slingshot on Jupiter wasn't all that special) it's just that it's rather uncommon since unless you're looking at the sun (or outwards), there's not much to look at outside the ecliptic.

Re:Upwards? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#38434346)

The same dust in the asteroid belt that blurs images from today's telescopes would decrease light pollution from the sun.

Re:Upwards? (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 2 years ago | (#38434920)

Exactly. The radiation envelope of the solar system is much wider than it is tall.

No, you are wrong. You are probably correct on the dust, but not on the radiation envelope: the Solar Wind is much more powerful in its polar emissions than its equatorial ones.

Re:Upwards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38432246)

Yes, but the survey spacecraft likely has a few missions to do on the way to the outer solar system.
Bolting a telescope to an existing craft is probably cheaper than making a specialized craft just for this purpose.

Earth's orbit and slingshots (5, Informative)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 2 years ago | (#38432302)

Why couldn't they just send one upwards out of the plane of the solar system? Wouldn't that be quicker?

Costs. And time.

We already have a certain velocity in the plane (earth is going around the sun, and we have to escape the sun's gravity well). We have practically zero velocity in the upwards direction. This is also who rockets are launched from near the equator.

Add to that possible slingshots around other planets, and you have your whole answer.

Re:Earth's orbit and slingshots (1)

master_p (608214) | about 2 years ago | (#38433312)

But the relative velocity of the rocket, relative to Earth, is zero at liftoff, so our velocity relative the solar system's plane is not a factor that affects the rocket.

The slingshot around other planets can also happen in a perpendicular direction relative to our plane.
 

Re:Earth's orbit and slingshots (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 2 years ago | (#38433634)

If you want to get away from the Solar system, then ultimately the velocity relative to the sun is what matters.

True, you first need to get off the earth. And the speed relatively to the earth matters. But as you reach the right speed (11 km/s), soon enough the velocity relative to the sun starts to matter more. And then it was nice if our rocket took off in the direction of the motion of the earth, using all the earth's forward motion as a bonus.

Re:Earth's orbit and slingshots (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 2 years ago | (#38433646)

Where's the edit button? Sorry about the all italics.

Re:Earth's orbit and slingshots (2)

nschubach (922175) | about 2 years ago | (#38434338)

F12 : Console : $('.btn.link[id*="reply"]').text('Edit');

Re:Earth's orbit and slingshots (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 years ago | (#38433786)

But the relative velocity of the rocket, relative to Earth, is zero at liftoff, so our velocity relative the solar system's plane is not a factor that affects the rocket.

On the other hand, the velocity of the rocket, relative to the Sun, is high at liftoff. And velocity relative to the Sun is the primary factor in determining the orbit, relative to the Sun, that a deep-space probe takes.

To provide some numbers, starting from LEO, a deltaV of around 6300 m/s would be about enough to get us to Jupiter using an orbit in the plane of the ecliptic.

A solar-polar orbit to Jupiter would require about 40900 m/s deltaV....

Note that both numbers are approximations, assuming (for instance) that Jupiter and Earth have orbits in the same plane (they don't, but the difference is lost when considering a solar-polar orbit)....

Re:Upwards? (4, Insightful)

sFurbo (1361249) | about 2 years ago | (#38432304)

They are probably going to use gravity assists [wikipedia.org] , and planets are hard to come by outside of the ecliptic. However, I suppose they could use the last gravity assist to deflect it upwards.

Re:Upwards? (1)

Sussurros (2457406) | about 2 years ago | (#38432476)

Pardon my ignorance, but do gravity assists have to be in plane? Can they not go sideways?

Re:Upwards? (0)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 years ago | (#38432512)

You're stealing the orbital velocity of a body when you perform a gravity assist. By definition that only works in the orbital plane.

Re:Upwards? (4, Informative)

srjh (1316705) | about 2 years ago | (#38432872)

Not necessarily. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Upwards? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 years ago | (#38434062)

Ah, so you can exchange momentum with the planet in a great many ways. Delightful! I fucking love physics.

Re:Upwards? (2)

agentgonzo (1026204) | about 2 years ago | (#38433176)

It's not so much the 'stealing' of momentum that's required in this case, but the deflection of the path of motion by the gravitational well. Encounters with planets do both but the standard slingshot only normally uses the momentum gain as most missions have been in the plane of the ecliptic

Re:Upwards? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#38435032)

It's more a matter of there not being any planets outside of the ecliptic which you could get a gravity assist from. It's hard to slingshot around a planet if it isn't there.

Re:Upwards? (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | about 2 years ago | (#38432546)

You could use the last gravity assist to deflect upwards, but what would be the point? If you've already used a few planetary passes working to build up significant velocity in one direction, why waste your last opportunity by adding velocity in a whole other direction? Most likely you're already past the asteroid belt by that point, and it won't help you get away from the sun's glare any quicker.

Re:Upwards? (2)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#38433046)

It helps if you intend to overfly the poles of say, the Sun (Ulysses)...

Re:Upwards? (2)

Avtar (413895) | about 2 years ago | (#38432428)

The orbit would require that the telescope go through the plane of the solar system twice each orbit, which if it is close to the sun would mean going through the dust.

The only way to beat this is to go a far away, which as other posters have said, is easier slong the plane of the solar system.

Re:Upwards? (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | about 2 years ago | (#38432456)

In addition to the points others have made, they want to be far from the sun so that it's not a significant contaminant. Whether you go out of the plane or stay in the plane you'll need to get to the same distance to do that. Also, they want to avoid the Zodiacal dust. Going a short way out of the plane means that the dust (and the sun) will be blocking large amounts of an entire hemisphere.

Also, probes going out to the outer reaches of the solar system can use gravitational slingshots to get extra speed. Going out of the plane means you have none of that - it would probably take *longer* to get to a reasonable viewing position, as well as costing an enormous amount more since you wouldn't be able to piggyback on an existing project.

Still, it's certainly an interesting suggestion, and I don't mean that sarcastically.

Re:Upwards? (2)

jpapon (1877296) | about 2 years ago | (#38432714)

Is the sun really a significant contaminant? I can see the dust being a problem, especially when illuminated by the sun...

On the other hand, if you're pointed away from the sun, without any significant dust in the way to reflect back the sun's light, I don't see how the sun would contaminate anything. I'm probably missing something...

Re:Upwards? (3, Informative)

boristhespider (1678416) | about 2 years ago | (#38432830)

No, you're not, you're totally right - if you're pointing away from the sun then it doesn't contaminate anything. It depends where they're pointing it and what they're observing for whether it's an issue. You can mask out the sun but it will still be blocking a part of the sky - and more of it the nearer you are (obviously), and if you're any distance from it at all it will be many years before it gets out of the way.

The dust is probably more a problem though, I agree.

Re:Upwards? (1)

vivek_bye (1138507) | about 2 years ago | (#38432912)

maybe because they can't use gravity acceleration from any large planets in that direction

Re:Upwards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38433014)

Because they still need to orbit :)

Re:Upwards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38433372)

There's way too much phlogiston, I mean dark matter/energy in that direction. The probe would fall off the edge or be eaten by monsters. I provided the story to UP! in similar vane. You could get several gravity boosts and then send the telescope off the plane, just as easily, right?

Re:Upwards? (1)

Zhiroc (909773) | about 2 years ago | (#38434448)

Remember, you can't be "up" all the time. You are in an orbit that is tilted relative to the plane, and thus must pass through the plane twice on each revolution. If it were only at the distance of the earth's orbit, you would probably get significant "glare" for a significant amount of time compared to an earth-based telescope.

Re:Upwards? (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 2 years ago | (#38435004)

Why couldn't they just send one upwards out of the plane of the solar system? Wouldn't that be quicker?

Because it would be whooshing through dust particles that orbit along the plane twice in its orbit, and it will get bashed up pretty quick.

Um, will they get funding for it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38432238)

Considering that the James Webb Space Telescope has been buried [slashdot.org] , I don't like their chances.

Re:Um, will they get funding for it? (5, Funny)

Silpher (1379267) | about 2 years ago | (#38432392)

The reign of a great empire has come to an end. I think we'll dive into a quasi modern dark ages for the next period. With the collapse of the world economy wars will break out even more one even might consider WW3. The U.S.A. became unimaginable rich and prosperous with cheap borrowed energy (fossil fuel) and later borrowed money. With this they could achieve things which were awesome and great. Alas with great effort too they destroyed the pillars of their own success and the U.S.A has now become a hollow shell of what they've once been. The world has to stabilize again first before we're going to see great and whole hearty efforts in space again. And with powers shifting don't be surprised if some country else will take the lead. At least IMHO.

Re:Um, will they get funding for it? (2)

rich_hudds (1360617) | about 2 years ago | (#38434218)

Why is this tagged as funny?

Sounds fairly plausible and bleak to me.

Re:Um, will they get funding for it? (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 years ago | (#38432420)

JWST is actually now funded. The money wound up coming out of agriculture for some reason. Given how long JWST has been on the drawing board they'll want to start considering future space telescopes now if they want them to be in operation in three decades.

Re:Um, will they get funding for it? (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | about 2 years ago | (#38432492)

Three decades is the dream. If congress keeps up this partisan bickering it's likely to be four decades. Seriously though, JWST is going to change everything and corporate farms get enough handouts so they can just deal with it.

BY THE TIME IT GETS THERE ... !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38432258)

There will already be stuff 10x better here. Just because one war is over doesn't mean it's time to start spending like fools again.

Re:BY THE TIME IT GETS THERE ... !! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#38432290)

"There will already be stuff 10x better here. Just because one war is over doesn't mean it's time to start spending like fools again."

Again? They never stopped! Their much-ballyhooed "cuts" are nothing but smaller increases than they had planned. The expected expenditures for 2012 and 2013 are LARGER than for 2011. And 2011 was a bad year, indeed.

Re:BY THE TIME IT GETS THERE ... !! (1)

Deus.1.01 (946808) | about 2 years ago | (#38432670)

Economy expands in tandem with infrastructure demands.

Re:BY THE TIME IT GETS THERE ... !! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#38435250)

No, it doesn't. First, despite bogus GDP figures you get from government, government spending is not "the economy". Second, the real economy expands through savings, capital investment and production of goods. All 3 of which are harmed by excessive government spending.

Properties in Indirapuram (-1, Offtopic)

samirahills (2535638) | about 2 years ago | (#38432314)

It is pleasure a going through your post. I have bookmarked you to check out new stuff from your side. Properties in Indirapuram [jaibalajiproperties.com]

Bandwidth make it improbable? (4, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#38432316)

There is likely a bandwidth problem. Near-earth objects like Hubble and others can send us high-speed data streams. But while a distant telescope might see more, we would probably not be able to receive anywhere near the same data rate as for a closer object.

So... super-high resolution images at maybe one per day?

Maybe I have that wrong, but I don't think so. Higher-frequency (and therefore higher bandwidth) signals tend to attenuate more rapidly than lower-frequency signals do.

Re:Bandwidth make it improbable? (3, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 years ago | (#38432434)

Maybe the smart thing to do is have the 'scope do the data processing for us. In astronomy there's a lot of preprocessing from a large volume of redundant data to a small volume of high-value data, why not have a telescope that's got the intelligence (constantly updated and amended from Earth) to do some of that work before transmission.

Re:Bandwidth make it improbable? use a pigeon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38432502)

no really, why don't they simply fit the thing with a small set of removable hard disks (or whatever storage technology is used these days on identified flying objects) and then just transmit low-res data over the longer link and send one disk back every three months with the high(er)-res one?
simples!

Re:Bandwidth make it improbable? (2)

amRadioHed (463061) | about 2 years ago | (#38432582)

The solar system is mostly empty, what would attenuate the signal? The signal would have to pass through the dust causing the aforementioned zodiacal light, but I'm guessing that would not be enough to be a significant problem.

Re:Bandwidth make it improbable? (2)

fa2k (881632) | about 2 years ago | (#38432952)

It's hard to make a directional antenna that focusses all the energy into a few hundredths of a degree of solid angle.

Re:Bandwidth make it improbable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38433228)

Would a laser be better?

Re:Bandwidth make it improbable? (1)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | about 2 years ago | (#38432848)

Not only this but the energy to broadcast the signal so far might be hard to come by without sunlight

Re:Bandwidth make it improbable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38434152)

Spacecraft like this would always carry a nuclear power generator [wikipedia.org] .

not a good idea with current technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38432318)

it will take about 30 years for this telescope to reach the outer solar system, i rest my case

Re:not a good idea with current technology (4, Informative)

addie (470476) | about 2 years ago | (#38432450)

Well then it's a good thing they're only hoping to go as far as Jupiter, where "the zodiacal light is 30 times fainter than at Earth". But don't take my word for it, try reading the article.

Re:not a good idea with current technology (2)

chill (34294) | about 2 years ago | (#38434318)

But don't take my word for it, try reading the article.

Heretic!

time drift and delay (1)

aglider (2435074) | about 2 years ago | (#38432346)

I'm looking forward for the solution to time drift and delay for transmission!

Re:time drift and delay (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#38432394)

. . . an application for . . . faster-than-light neutrinos . . . ?

Re:time drift and delay (1)

aglider (2435074) | about 2 years ago | (#38433236)

Is that you, Mariastella [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:time drift and delay (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 years ago | (#38432436)

I was ready to take the piss out of your post but actually for things like supernova observation, matching up gravity wave events to x-ray bursts, etc. it's good to have a quick reaction time on any instrument with a narrow field of view.

Re:time drift and delay (2)

amRadioHed (463061) | about 2 years ago | (#38432622)

I'll take the piss out then. The target of this scope isn't supernovas, or anything that requires quick reaction time. It is meant to observe the pervasive background radiation from the early universe.

Re:time drift and delay (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 years ago | (#38432706)

Ah, right. For a survey probe it's not an issue then.

Re:time drift and delay (1)

aglider (2435074) | about 2 years ago | (#38433258)

Because you think that the only data being transmitted is just observation ones.
Ah!
What about the management and alarming data on a remooote probe?

lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38432378)

Maybe NASA should consider USA's budget deficit.

Re:lol (1)

gatkinso (15975) | about 2 years ago | (#38433128)

Moot if the is a return on investment. This can be hard to calculate: new technology, created jobs, educational and scientific benefits.

Outer Solar System (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38432590)

Sub-surface oceans in the Solar System may be far more common than we've realized. http://bestbusinessbrands.blogspot.com/

hmmm... (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#38432776)

...far side of Pluto? There was a drama-docu sci-fi thing made by the BBC ("Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets" I think it was called) where part of the Grand Manned Tour was to install an optical array on Pluto. Shockingly good idea, I wonder why this hasn't been done yet (apart from the obvious being cost and how to remotely soft land not just one but a series of probes carrying precision optical instruments on a rock six billion miles away *and* get them synchronised *and* hope that the journey hasn't shaken the mirrors to bits)...

Re:hmmm... (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 2 years ago | (#38433036)

Too far, the best place to set one up, so we could learn from the building and apply that knowledge to future projects, would be to build one on the dark side of the moon and use a sat in orbit of the moon to relay the data to earth. While we were there we could do some small scale mining of H3 and see how feasible it would be to set up a mining operation.

Remember for anything in space you really need to start with baby steps and work your way up. After all we didn't just shoot some guys to the moon, we had several earth orbits and shot probes to check out landing sites long before we sent actual people out there. As we learned from the shuttle disasters the American public simply doesn't have the stomach for killing astronauts which is why i wouldn't be surprised if China or India are the next ones out there and will just lie their asses off if it turns out to be a failure. "Nope didn't send nobody, it was a sat that malfunctioned!". Hell according to that amateur monitoring station in Italy that's what the USSR did in the 60s.

Re:hmmm... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#38433560)

WE could have though. the Apollo program system was designed before the first launch, the orbital stuff was just making sure we did not end up killing astronauts on the first try and horrifying all of america. we could have easily landed on the moon with apollo 1, no testing, just go.

everything from apollo 1 to 11 was safety testing.

Re:hmmm... (1)

chill (34294) | about 2 years ago | (#38434440)

As we learned from the shuttle disasters the American public simply doesn't have the stomach for killing astronauts which is why i wouldn't be surprised if China or India are the next ones out there...

I've always thought this was the best argument for non-governmental space exploration and exploitation. If the American public has lost its balls, fuck 'em -- the pussies can butt out. Let those who are willing to take the risks, the ones with the right stuff, reap the rewards.

Sure if you want to go smalltime (1)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | about 2 years ago | (#38432900)

I mean, if you really want to rock some low light pollution just send it out of the galaxy.

Of course it'll take a few thousand years to get the data back from each picture, but what's a thousand years when you're looking at the beginning of the universe right?

pilot (1, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 years ago | (#38432932)

NASA Considers Sending Telescope To the Outer Solar System

I have an ex-wife I'd like to nominate to drive it.

Just tell her there's a Nordstrom's out there.

IT saddens me... (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#38433540)

That we blow more money on a pointless war and other bullshit like bailing out the rich and the banks than doing real science and things that benefit all of mankind.

IF we were able to put a hubble telescope out around mars or even further out where it's a lot colder, we could really take advantage of things.

Instead we blow more than the entire NASA budge air conditioning tents for a war in a god forsaken land that will end up with another dictator within 10 years anyways.

Re:IT saddens me... (2)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 years ago | (#38434246)

Instead we blow more than the entire NASA budge air conditioning tents for a war in a god forsaken land

There's plenty of room for debate, but many people believe that without protecting its own interests, the US would risk becoming one of those god forsaken lands. The risk might be small but nobody wants to take that chance.

Light Pollution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38433708)

I hate our Sun.... damn polluter.

Send it farther, look at NEW Kepler targets! (1)

wisebabo (638845) | about 2 years ago | (#38434036)

News flash: NASA will announce something new (presumably more results) from the Kepler planet hunting spacecraft today.

Back to my post: if you can get it to about (I think) 500 AU, it gets to the focal point of the Sun's gravitational lens. The Sun then becomes a GIANT (as in millions of kilometers across) lens, allowing you to see at unbelievable resolutions even at distances of light years. I read somewhere it was at meters(?!) per light year, I can't believe that is true but even at KILOmeters per light year it would be incredible.

Targeted at the right stars it would answer, definitively once and for all if there is life around other stars. (That's if it returns a positive of course).

Of course this would require a whole host of expensive technologies. Gravity assist alone wouldn't be enough to get it out there within a single lifetime so something like ion-drives would be needed. Maybe a solar sail could be used on the outward bound leg but since it would have to SLOW DOWN and STOP you'd still need an ion-drive or something (magnetic sail?). The power requirements for the drive would dwarf that of the requirements of the Voyager probes for example so maybe a real nuclear reactor would be required. Finally some much more powerful communications sub-system would be required to fully take advantage of such an amazing probe; maybe lasers or "relay" spacecraft.

But hey, for only a couple billion dollars we can do some amazing things!

Re:Send it farther, look at NEW Kepler targets! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38435110)

But hey, for only a couple billion dollars we can do some amazing things!

That's what she said.

Strap a booster rocket onto Hubble (1)

jpvlsmv (583001) | about 2 years ago | (#38434834)

Rather than let the crowning achievement of orbital optics burn up in the atmosphere, why not boost its orbit out of earth's neighborhood. Kick it up to a LaGrange point, or even further. Even if it floats in space until it runs out of batteries, it's still better than ending up as a ball of flaming metal in the upper atmosphere. And next century when spaceflight is commoditized, someone can salvage it and bring it back for a museum piece.

The Mars rovers have shown that useful science can be done far beyond the expected lifespan of the equipment if given a chance.

--Joe

It's not about high-res piccies (2)

Trapezium Artist (919330) | about 2 years ago | (#38434910)

If you read the article, it's clear that this is intended to be an instrument which includes a very wide-field imager (3cm aperture) and a somewhat higher-spatial resolution (although that's only in a relative sense) channel with a 15cm aperture, both to operate in the optical/near-infrared. This is not about high spatial resolution imaging of the HST/JWST kind.

The aim is to detect the very faint extragalactic background light (EBL), which includes a component due to the integrated light from the first generation of galaxies in the Universe. Since the zodiacal light of the solar system drowns out that light, getting out beyond 5AU and thus beyond most of the asteroids which yield the dust which in turn reflect sunlight / emit their own IR flux, makes your telescope much more sensitive.

I would have said that this is just YAJS or Yet Another JPL Study, of which we've had several appear in these pages of late. If you want studies, I can give you loads of them: doesn't mean they're going to happen. And yet this one involves Chas Beichman and he knows what he's up to. It also very deliberately name checks the ESA JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) mission as a possible carrier for the proposed instrument package. OK, JUICE is also just a study at the moment, but within six months time, there's a 1-in-3 chance that it'll win the competition to be ESA's next L-class mission and thus much more "real".

Then again, given that JUICE's destination is the Jupiter system (duh), an EBL experiment would be limited to the cruise stage part en-route to 5AU.

Either way, a title of "NASA Considers Sending Telescope to the Outer Solar System" is pretty misleading: this is a study for an instrument package with a couple of cameras, photometers, and spectrometers which might hitchhike on another satellite; it scarcely qualifies as a "telescope" in the same sense as HST, Spitzer, Herschel, JWST, etc.

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