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Distant Planet Imaging Project Gets More Funding

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the dreaming-of-zoom-lenses dept.

Space 264

It doesn't come easy writes "NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts has chosen a proposal by the University of Colorado (UC) at Boulder to image distant planets around other stars for a second round of funding. Known as the New Worlds Observer, the UC project is for an orbiting, soccer-field sized "starshade" shaped like a daisy that would funnel light from distant planets between its petals to a second spacecraft trailing 50,000 miles behind. If the concept proves feasible, it could 'identify planetary features like oceans, continents, polar caps and cloud banks, and even detect biomarkers like methane, water, oxygen and ozone [...]'"

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264 comments

I just hope... (5, Funny)

dptalia (804960) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775677)

...we can see them building the invasion fleet in time.

Re:I just hope... (3, Funny)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775775)

Unfortunately, you'll only be able to see them when they ignite their light speed drives. Those suckers are bright!

Re:I just hope... (2, Funny)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775848)

Even worse, if the invasion fleet really has light speed drives, we will first detect them when they arrive in orbit around Earth, before the light from their light speed drives reaches us. We're doomed. Or we can surrender and hope their culture has laws against mistreatment of pets. Woof.

Re:I just hope... (1)

frank378 (736832) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775930)

we will first detect them when they arrive in orbit around Earth, before the light from their light speed drives reaches us

Uhmm... sorry but, wouldn't that make them faster than light?

Re:I just hope... (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775952)

That was supposed to be the funny of my post for the intellectually inclined (that if you just noticed their light speed drives starting up, you're in trouble now). :-)

Sounds cool... (3, Funny)

jamesgamble (917138) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775683)

But did they really have to shape it like a giant flower?

Re:Sounds cool... (2, Informative)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775737)

What other shape do you propose? Remember, it must be able to funnel light.

Re:Sounds cool... (1)

jamesgamble (917138) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775788)

I don't know... a funnel?

Re:Sounds cool... (-1, Flamebait)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775819)

Yeah, I thought you'd give a moronic answer like that. Please come back when you have some experience designing complex equipment.

If they're going with a flower-shaped design, then there's most likely a very good reason for it. Considering that these people are far more intelligent than you, your idea is worthless.

Re:Sounds cool... (1)

jamesgamble (917138) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775932)

There is no need to be rude... If you do not have anything nice to say, why not just drop it? :) I was not trying to be an ass when I answered you.

Re:Sounds cool... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13776027)

What a great attitude to have! Questioning things is wrong, and you are an idiot for asking! If everyone thought like this, we'd still be living in huts, farming for a living, paying 10% of our income to the church and we would not be able to read or write. I feel sorry that you think this way, and I'm glad that theres people out there that question things. Grow up.

Re:Sounds cool... (1, Troll)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776120)

Questioning things is an excellent thing to do. I wish that more people did it more often.

However, in this case the questioning was based on a complete lack of understanding. Now, I don't have much of a problem with that. That's fine. It's when people provide stupid alternatives that I take offense.

It was, like it or not, stupid to suggest that the design be scrapped and replaced with a large garage funnel.

Hey... (2, Funny)

bc90021 (43730) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775695)

...I can see my house from here! ;-)

Re:Hey... (2, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775740)

> ...I can see my house from here! ;-)

...proving (much like the General and Special Theories of Disaster Area Tax Returns) that the whole fabric of the space-time continuum is not merely curved, but is in fact totally bent.

Why don't we... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13775703)

stop feeding a few well-fed children to get even more funding?

I'd reply.. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13775706)

but I have no idea what they're talking about.

CU not UC (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13775719)

University of Colorado goes by CU.

But cool project. It would be interesting to see what other worlds look like, not just know that they are there.

Re:CU not UC (2, Informative)

coyote-san (38515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775857)

You beat me to it.

For reference "UC" is California (UCLA for the LA campus, UCSD for the San Diego campus, you get the idea.)

"UConn" is the University of Connecticut.

"CU" is the University of Colorado, "DU" is the University of Denver.

This sounds pendantic but searches for "UC" will bring up the wrong universities.

Re:CU not UC (1)

spicydragonz (837027) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775987)

Another interesting item is that the N on the University of Nebraska football helmet stands for "Knowledge." Shoulder to Shoulder we will fight! fight! fightfightfight.

How will the religious establishment react? (4, Interesting)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775723)

How will the religious establishment react to such discoveries? Suppose a distant planet with many of the features of earth (oceans, deserts, mountains, etc.) is found. But let's not go so far as to say that plant life (or something like it) is found.

How would the religious establishment react? Such discoveries would, in effect, refute many of the religious claims.

We have already seen pseudo Christians going to extreme lengths to ban the teaching of evolution in places like Kansas and Tennessee. Would they take a similar route were discoveries that didn't mesh to well with their teachings to be found?

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13775745)

How will the religious establishment react to such discoveries?
Who cares?

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (5, Interesting)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775779)

Any true American should care. After all, it is their children and grandchildren who many not receive a full education due to the religious beliefs of a small group of extremists. And in the world economy of today and most likely tomorrow, they will need to have such knowledge to just get by, let alone succeed.

Powerful religious groups can often have a profound impact upon the development and progress of a nation.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (3, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775769)

The same way they did back when they insisted the universe revolved around the earth and that we were enclosed in a series of layered spheres. That is to say, torture, imprison and kill those who promote "science" that is not in line with theological teaching. And we have just the administration to do it with the recently supported torture laws to allow for it. :)

Anyway, this does seem a little bit like getting a map of China when you don't even have the means of transportation to get past the 7-11 at the end of your street.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13775825)

What a flamebait! Do you think ALL religious institutions will behave like THAT?

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13775851)

All except for perhaps Scientology. They are the most open to honest scientific inquiry.

You must be new here (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776074)

All except for perhaps Scientology. They are the most open to honest scientific inquiry.

Where "here" = among the living on planet Earth, if you actually think Scientologists welcome scientists nosing into their racket.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776095)

All except for perhaps Scientology. They are the most open to honest scientific inquiry.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Oh, that was good. $cientologists are about as anti-science as it gets. That's like saying Christian Scientists are real big fans of the medical community.

Here's a hint. Just because the word "science" appears in some group's name doesn't necessarily mean they are open to to scientific principles or discoveries.

Now I await the punishment of $cientologist moderators.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775853)

Indeed, if I were an American that is what I would fear.

Right now we don't have the technology to visit such places. But in perhaps 20 or 30 years we might. That's really not a very long time, all things considered. And with the pro-religion, anti-scientific stance of the current American administration, there's a very good chance that it won't be Americans visiting these planets for the first time. It may very well be the Chinese getting there first, just because they didn't let religion interfere with their technological progress.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776059)

It may very well be the Chinese getting there first.

RUNtse de FWOtzoo, ching baoYO wuomun...

Ok, I get dibs on Londinium. I want the shiny hat. :)

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1)

op12 (830015) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775907)

Anyway, this does seem a little bit like getting a map of China when you don't even have the means of transportation to get past the 7-11 at the end of your street.

But finding something interesting there could drive faster development of the means to get there.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (4, Insightful)

temojen (678985) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775771)

How would the discovery of other planets with earth-like features refute religious dogma?

If there is an all powerful deity, surely it's within the power of such deity to create more than one earth.

Genesis specifies how this earth was created. It says nothing of the existance or non-existance of others.

It's kind of like how physics neither requires nor rules out any deity.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13775940)

Christan dogma states that humans are special chosen etc... If we found a higher life form then that would invalidate a large portion of their dogmam, but I expect they would still be in denial even if they teleported their way over to Earth and denounced all forms of religion as utter crap.

'Genesis specifies how this earth was created. It says nothing of the existence or non-existence of others.'
Genesis says how the universe is created to people of Jewish descendant (I include Christians along with Jews since Christ was supposed to be kind of the Jews)

"It's kind of like how physics neither requires nor rules out any deity."
Only to a few people who like to be religious, the kind of people who get confused by 'If a tree falls in the woods and no one is their to hear it does it make a noise'

Physics (The first law of thermodynamics) just about proves that God has no influence on our lives, heaven doesn't exist, and humans probably don't have free will, yada, yada, yada.

-2 Troll, ha, stupid religious nuts, -1 troll from a Bush voter is like penny's from heaven.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13776171)

You know very little of physics AND religion. Belief in the non-existence of a god is a belief as well, it cannot be proven either way (since a 'miracle' can be a highly unlikely event, or the doing of a much more advanced being, etc).

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1)

xtal (49134) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775970)

We will anxiously await sightings of the Jolly Roger, while dressed in full Pirate Regalia.

How else would we react?

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776099)

Yeah, you know how it goes... some planets take 7 days, some 8 or 9 days, a rush job God can do in, uh, about a day and a half...

Are we forgetting that the bible claims our Earth is the center of the universe?

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1)

SageMusings (463344) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776111)

I'll go for the "cargo cult" angle. If we see evidence of life on another world, many people will begin to worship them as gods that, no doubt, had some influence on our development.

It would create 12 new religions overnight.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775829)

First off, this it not funded yet. In fact, part of me would rather that we go back to getting our budget balanced, which will take some hard choices. Sadly, we made those back in the 90's to deal with Reagan's deficits. Now it has to be done all over again.

Second, who says that they will believe it? People today seem to have a unique ability to ignore evidence and truth.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (0)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775937)

You want to balance your budget? I'm sorry to tell you, but the current administration has overspent so fucking much in the last half-decade that it'll probably take you guys decades to just break even again. And that's assuming you stop all useless spending now. Chances are that won't happen, and you'll be paying interest out the asshole for decades.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13776093)

Chances are that won't happen, and you'll be paying interest out the asshole for decades.

I am not convinced of that. Our current leaders have a long history of either bankrupting or getting help from Middle Eastern/Asian countries with their previous businesses. Considering that the Iraqi invasion will probably lead to the overthrow of a number of middle east countries (esp. the Saudis), I doubt that they will be in a hurry to help us. That is going to leave us one option.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775846)

I think guidance as to what would happen can be found in the life of Gallileo.

Also, it's relatively unclear what religious claims are invalidated by the existence of extrasolar planets. Prior to the discover of non-human intelligent life on another planet, Christianity, for example, would have pretty much no difficulty. God put all those planets and life forms there for us to enjoy when we are sufficiently technologically advanced, presumably.

Theologically, things don't really get interesting at all until you meet something non-human that seems to have a soul that needs saving.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (3, Funny)

Digital Pizza (855175) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775964)

Eventually, we can look forward to:
  • Human missionaries attempting to convert aliens to Christianity.
  • Alien missionaries attempting to convert humans to their religion.
What fun; hope nobody starts a war over it.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (4, Funny)

nine-times (778537) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775854)

Just posted on FARK today: Vatican astronomer ponders baptism of extra-terrestrials [cathnews.com]

That's right. You show me some ET's, and I'll show you some Christians that want to baptize them.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776043)

Makes one wonder about whether baptisms must be performed with water, or is liquid Methane acceptable. Tough, tough questions.

THose thoughts aside, I can recommend The Sparrow [amazon.com] by Mary Doria Russell [amazon.com] which revolves around Jesuits and ETs. Good read.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (2, Insightful)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775866)

How have they reacted to discoveries in the past?

Either :
1: Lock the person up.
2: Deny that the observation is real.
3: Make up a fake observation to counteract the real one.
4: Invade the plannet in the name of good wiping out evil.
5: Pray they don't come and invade us, but put a few draconian laws in place just in case they do.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776019)

I forgot,
6: Send out our own invasion fleet and try to convert them to our religion.
7: Send out a specially encoded version of the watchtower and hope the invite us around to tea.
8: Sit and think about it for a while, before becoming enlightened.
9: Send out a map to Mecca and circumcise them all.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (2, Insightful)

jhamm (94944) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775868)

Simple - the religious establishment doesn't NEED an explanation. Followers will simply shift to "faith" to fill in the gaps. If that doesn't work, the most remedial explanation will suffice to keep believers in line. Here's a few that would probably work:

"God never said that He didn't create OTHER planets in addition to the Earth."

"The Bible was not 'literal' when it talked about Earth being the center of the universe."

"God made other Earths after He made this one. Our Earth was the first."

[Be creative - insert your own here]

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1)

nharmon (97591) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775988)

> "The Bible was not 'literal' when it talked about Earth being the center
  > of the universe."

Try, the Bible does not say the Earth is the center of the universe.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1)

the bluebrain (443451) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775893)

No worries, the missionary urge will kick in.

If fundies (of any ilk) can squeeze, say, the bible through their own personal reality check, aliens won't be e prob.

If all else fails, it's a test. The lord is testing us. He's big on that.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1, Troll)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775897)

Considering the religious establishment won't admit that according to the bible we're all the product of incest (Adam and Eve had Cain and Abel. Cain found a woman and had a child. Where did the woman come from unless it was Eve herself? After all, nowhere in the bible does it say God created anyone other than Adam and Eve.) so I'm sure they could come up with some lame excuse as to how life on another planet is still the work of God even though the first two lines of Genesis [carm.org] specifically state it was Earth that was created.

Though I have to admit it will sure be fun to see all the squirming and contorting that will take place from the religious establishment in trying to prove their point.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13776112)

If there are no others present, why does Adam worry that someone will kill him when he's evicted from the garden of eden?

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13776154)

they generally didn't document female births in the bible, so it is conceivable it was his sister. not that that is any better, but it's possible.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (5, Interesting)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775974)

How would the religious establishment react? Such discoveries would, in effect, refute many of the religious claims.

Exactly how they've reacted for every other scientific discovery made in the past that contradicts religion - half of them will deny it, and half of them will quietly tell themselves that part of their religion is metaphorical (and always has been).

We have already seen pseudo Christians going to extreme lengths to ban the teaching of evolution

That's a perfect example. Half of them are denying it, and half of them are saying that Genesis is metaphorical (and always has been).

Forget Religion...What about the Realtors ? (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776041)

How will the real estate market react?

When can we condemn the beach front property for commercial development?

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1)

neptune612 (851897) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776178)

They will change their dogma to match again like they have done throughout time. Why do you think Christianity has lasted so long. It is able to adapt and correct itself. DUH!!! In time though, it will too become mythology and another organized religion will take it's place, but not in our lifetime.

Re:How will the religious establishment react? (1)

going_the_2Rpi_way (818355) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776211)

From this post: We have already seen pseudo Christians going to extreme lengths to ban the teaching of evolution in places like Kansas and Tennessee. Would they take a similar route were discoveries that didn't mesh to well with their teachings to be found?

From another post in this thread you say to another poster:

If they're going with a flower-shaped design, then there's most likely a very good reason for it. Considering that these people are far more intelligent than you, your idea is worthless

Can you not see the irony here at all? It's exactly that type of attitude that Copernicus and Gallileo fought.

They could have chosen a better Acronym (2, Funny)

ZP-Blight (827688) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775739)

NWO? Really?

Re:They could have chosen a better Acronym (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13775864)

I guess they thought anyone that would be offended by the acronym would already be at least suspicious of their motives because they are a government-funded project. In other words, it wasn't worth it to care.

Re:They could have chosen a better Acronym (2, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776206)

They wanted to call it TWA (Telescope With Attitude), but unfortunately that acronym was already taken.

No Google Reference - Can't Be True (3, Funny)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775742)

Clearly we are unable to function without Their Googly Appendages, so I don't know how NASA is going to pull this off. Although a soccer-field-sized Space Daisy observatory does sound like something eBay would acquire, and that might get Google interested in a competing Cricket-Pitch Space Tulip.

And in other news (5, Funny)

Daysaway (916732) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775751)

Google plans to unveil their new software aptly named 'Google Solar System', which sews the surface maps of the planets together for an interactive flythrough.

As I'm sure they will find out (0, Redundant)

suso (153703) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775764)

it can also detect planetary features like large pockets of hydrogen, methane and nitrogen gas, rings, color bands and thick soupy atmospheres. ;-) Sorry, but I think we're too far away to see anything earth size for now. Maybe in 10-20 years we'll have the technology down.

Wow, thanks for that well thought-out analysis (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13775934)

"I may not have 'facts' or 'numbers' or a fancy 'basic understanding of the concepts', but I don't think we can do that."

Seriously, why did you even bother typing?

Re:As I'm sure they will find out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13775939)

I'm certainly glad you cleared that up before anyone bothered studying it. Dipshit.

But wait, there's more! (4, Funny)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775768)

> it could 'identify planetary features like oceans,
> continents, polar caps and cloud banks, and even
> detect biomarkers like methane

The bad part will come with version 3.0, launched in the later part of this century, when we zoom on on their alien babes on beaches, and see if they have silly laws regulating nudity, too. Or churches.

Quite frankly, I'd be way more scared if they had churches than if they did not.

Re:But wait, there's more! (2, Funny)

maynard (3337) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775881)

Do you even want to see this thing [palisadestoys.com] in a bikini?!?!? Best the aliens be covered, if you ask me...

Re:But wait, there's more! (2, Funny)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776030)

I can see it now. The guy scientists gathering around the screen, then suddenly "Eeww, Gross! What's that?" "I don't know. Is it normal?" "Sadly, I wouldn't know"

Phew. (3, Funny)

mctk (840035) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775794)

Soccer field sized cameras, tiny robots for planetary surface investigation, an infrared observatory on the moon, giant, laser-trapped mirrors in space...

Having recently watched Independence Day, I can say that I'm relieved that NASA is finally getting around to that RFDEW (Really F#*king Distant Early Warnings) system I've been proposing for years.

Steerable? (5, Insightful)

david.given (6740) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775798)

This thing appears to be a giant pinhole camera; there's a pinhole, which can be considered the lens assembly, which focuses light onto the sensor, 50'000km behind.

Very cool. However, there's one little problem --- how the hell do you turn it? If the sensor's got to be 50'000km away from the lens, then to turn it 90 degrees (why does Slashdot block Unicode?) you're going to have to move the sensor some 70'000km, which means a lot of hydrazine.

Or do they have something more cunning up their sleeves?

Re:Steerable? (2, Interesting)

theycallmeB (606963) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776021)

I (without RTFA) would suppose that the sensor would be in very nearly the same sun-orbiting track as the pinhole assembly to maintain the correct focal length. Thus, to turn the camera by 90 degrees in the plane of the orbit, you just have to wait for 1/4th or 3/4th (depending which way you wanted to turn) of the orbital period to transpire (3 or 9 months in an Earth-trailing orbit). If you want to turn it more than a few degrees (or even a few arc-minutess) out of plane, things would get complicated and expensive, but if you can get the orbital plane of the camera more-or-less aligned with the plane of the galaxy, it shouldn't be that great of a limitation.

Re:Steerable? (1)

halftrack (454203) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776063)

Perhaps the pinhole part has a mirror, the disk with the pinhole would be able to spin around a central axis (obviously it need some counterweight.) And inside this central axis there is are huge arrays of mirrors (the mirror surface needs to be as large as the pinhole) that can be used to aim the light at the trailing craft.

(And no, this is slashdot, so I didn't read the article either.)

Re:Steerable? (1)

TopSpin (753) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776127)

which means a lot of hydrazine

Only if you need to go fast. If, instead, you go slowly then it's not a problem. 70,000km at 10km/h is about 291 days. Presumably once a general alignment is achieved many systems can be analyzed with only small changes.

Hydrazine isn't the only available means of propulsion. This looks like a great application for an ion drive. The small thrust and easily controlled throttle would make frequent, precise alignment maneuvers easier than it might be with traditional thrusters. Ion drives also have an order of magnitude greater fuel efficiency.

Re:Steerable? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776192)

Very cool. However, there's one little problem --- how the hell do you turn it? If the sensor's got to be 50'000km away from the lens, then to turn it 90 degrees (why does Slashdot block Unicode?) you're going to have to move the sensor some 70'000km, which means a lot of hydrazine.
Not true at all.

Imagine a sunshade that's in Earth's orbit (not in orbit around Earth, but in the same orbit) with the sensor craft coorbital but trailing. In the course of a year, your field of view will traverse 360 degrees without ever once manuvering either craft.

In practice, they plan to have the two craft in seperate orbits around L2 - as described in this PDF [mit.edu], but the basic principle is as described above.

Re:Steerable? (4, Interesting)

Zathrus (232140) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776231)

However, there's one little problem --- how the hell do you turn it?

This is listed as a "problem" by the folks developing it.

Actually, however, there's a much bigger problem. Presuming that you have the sensor facing away from the sun (if you don't, then you face even bigger issues), then the 50k km spacing leads to the two objects being in separate orbits. The sensor will travel around the sun at a slightly faster rate than the shield, which means you have to adjust orbits on a pretty frequent basis. This becomes less and less of a problem the further away from the sun you are (and being further away has its own advantages too), but it's still an issue no matter what.

Keeping the entire thing in alignment is a huge problem -- even if you ignore needing to turn it (which you certainly will; it may be a pinhole camera, but the longer the exposure time the better the picture -- if you can pivot the entire thing continuously that is).

Reminded me of Star Trek - I am Nomad (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775811)

"Using photometry and spectroscopy, we could identify planetary features like oceans, continents, polar caps and cloud banks, and even detect biomarkers like methane, water, oxygen and ozone," said Cash.

This reminded me of Star Trek, Ep. 37 'The Changeling'

Nomad was sent out by Earth "in the early 2000s" according to Kirk on a mission to scout for life. Nomad collided with a meteor and was damaged and had lost a good portion of its memory until it encountered another probe, this one alien, with equally advanced artificial intelligence. The alien probe, which had the mission of sterilizing imperfections in soil for colonization purposes, merged with Nomad to repair one another. The convoluted mixup made Nomad think his duty was to sterlize anything that isn't perfect. This is what happened to the poor Malurians - they were killed because they were imperfect.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/6300 213412/102-1365682-2218526?v=glance [amazon.com]

Re:Reminded me of Star Trek - I am Nomad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13776150)

This is Slashdot. Did you really think you needed to summarize the episode?

biomarkers (2, Interesting)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775838)

and even detect biomarkers like methane, water, oxygen and ozone

I hope I live to see the day when this thing detects a faint glow on the planet's continents that are facing away from the planet's sun at that moment. *shudder*

Accuracy a problem? (2, Interesting)

ericfnj (921821) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775865)

During the recent comet impactor mission, the accuracy needed to strike the probe onto the comet seemed to be at the limit of our abilities.

Can we really move a pinhole shaped opening directly in front of the target at 50,000km?

Minor correction (0, Redundant)

MoxCamel (20484) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775877)

...a proposal by the University of Colorado (UC) at Boulder to image distant planets around other stars for a second round of funding. Known as the New Worlds Observer, the UC project is...

The University of Colorado goes by CU, not UC. The Boulder campus goes simply by CU Boulder. (yeah well, it's a slow news day for me too...)

Mox

So the images would go into... (3, Funny)

awol (98751) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775920)

Google "Not" Earth then.... Or maybe GoogleGalaxy.

Blind Lake? (2, Interesting)

Mantrid (250133) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775975)

Heh kind of reminds me of the book titled "Blind Lake" (sorry can't remember the author) Basically they had a super telescope getting more and more detail, hooking it up super computers for further analysis of the data, and more and more data starts pouring in from the computers in greater and greater detail...even after the original telescopes stop working!

More info (2, Informative)

Zathrus (232140) | more than 8 years ago | (#13775986)

The NAIC [usra.edu] website has a smidgen more info on it -- namely that there were four other research projects funded [usra.edu] as well.

There's a PDF [usra.edu] on this project that may contain more info, but my copy of Acrobat (6.0) declines to render the entire thing (or the PDF is junk, dunno which).

There's also an article on Astrobio.net [astrobio.net] that gives little more detail than the CU link... but it does have links to other sources that may be informative. Really though, this concept seems to be in such an infancy stage that "simple" questions like "so how do you turn it?" haven't been answered yet (in fact, in this NASA link [nasa.gov] how to keep the two craft in alignment is listed as a "main technological hurdle").

Imagine the possibilities! (2, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776033)

With technology like this, we could even determine if the inhabitants of distant planets are so mindbogglingly primitive that they're still driving SUVs!

Great.... (2, Funny)

zimus (68982) | more than 8 years ago | (#13776037)

... an orbiting, soccer-field sized "starshade" shaped like a daisy ...

Let's just clue the entire galaxy in to the fact that so many hippies live here.
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