Feeds

Aussie boffins can detect orbiting SPACE JUNK using rock gods' radiation

'It's only rock and roll ... but I sight it'

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

Scientists in Western Australia think they've cracked a way to use FM radio emissions from a youth station to track man-made garbage in low-Earth orbit. The boffins have demonstrated the technique using the International Space Station as a target.

The newly built Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in remote Boolardy sheep station in Australia's western outback region uses radio transmissions from nearby youth-orientated station Triple J to detect objects in space. It has picked up the station's signals reflected off the ISS, but the team says the same reflections could be refined down to serve a more useful purpose.

"We have shown that we are able to detect approximately 10 pieces of space junk simultaneously. Over time this means we are in a position to monitor a significant fraction of the space junk that is in Earth orbits," said Professor Steven Tingay, chief investigator in the Australian Research Council Center for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO).

"An early warning system has the potential to protect the billions of dollars' worth of vital infrastructure orbiting the Earth but also prevent collisions that will result in even more space debris being generated, such as what happened in the case of the Iridium 33 satellite in 2009."

Space debris is certainly a problem. Mankind has been littering Earth's orbit for more than 50 years and the situation is getting worse. NASA has had to upgrade rocketry control systems on the ISS so that it can dodge debris in six hours, instead of over a day in the original designs, due to the number of close shaves.

That said, the MWA isn’t designed for this kind of work. The telescope is one of the first operation stages of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, a $2bn radio telescope that will be the largest array in the Southern Hemisphere when it comes online in 2024, if current building schedules permit.

The SKA consists of a concentrated one square-kilometer heart of dishes and dipole radio receptors, with refining receivers spread up to 3,000 kilometers further out. It will work faster and image galaxies farther out than any other Earth-bound radio telescope.

One of its key tasks is to look back into the very early stages of the universe's development, about 350 to 800 million years aft the Big Bang. This period, known as the Epoch of Reionization, saw the very first stars and galaxies form, and the Aussie telescope may be able to provide vital clues about what fired up the universe as we know it. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.