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Dead stars could be the future of space navigation

Image of exploded star Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Minn.

Scientists at the University of Leicester have been commissioned to find out wheather dead stars could be used to navigate in deep space.

Up until now space navigation has relied on radio transmissions with ground stations on Earth. But large distances mean it can take hours or even days to communicate with space craft in outer space. The size of radio antennas is also an issue.

Scientists are investigating whether x-rays from dead stars called pulsars could assist navigation. The pulsars emit intense electromagnetic radiation as pulses - similar to the rotating beam of light seem from a light house. They can be highly regular making them a suitable source to navigate from.

Ring circling around dead star Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In 2010, the University celebrated 50 years of space science in Leicester. The success of this study relies on the University’s long-standing expertise in X-ray astronomy and in space-science instrumentation.

– Dr John Pye, University of Leicester Space Research Centre Manager,
Dust around dead star Credit: NASA/CXC/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

The research has been commissioned by the European Space Agency and the University of Leicester will work alongside scientists at National Physical Laboratory.