Global Positioning Systems work famously here on the home planet because we control all of the moving parts; put some satellites in the sky, equip a device with the proper hardware to communicate with them, and you can locate yourself just about anywhere. But how would we locate ourselves in deep space? For that kind of spatial location, a team of Italian researchers have devised a way to calculate one's position in space using pulsars as interstellar navigation beacons.
The idea of using pulsars as a kind of space GPS has been proposed in the past;
but Matteo Ruggerio and some colleagues at the Politecnico di Torino are the first to have actually done it, using the radio telescope-equipped Parkes Observatory in Australia as their reference point.
GPS is nothing more than the measurement of time-delay measurements relative to different satellite clocks, and pulsars – rotating neutron stars that emit beams of radio waves – are extremely precise clocks. Because they are rotating very regularly, those radio beams appear to be pulsing at regular intervals as well, intervals so regular that they rival atomic clocks in their precision. But the high speeds at which astronomic bodies move makes calculating position from various pulsars pretty difficult.
Part of the problem with pulsar-based space positioning systems (SPS? Can we go ahead and coin that acronym?) is that you have to monitor more than one pulsar at a time to accurately calculate position. Parkes can only monitor one at a time. So the team used a software package called TEMPO2 to simulate the signals that known pulsars would produce anywhere on Earth.
Crunching all of that data together, they were able to get what they call "a correct result with a poor accuracy" after measuring for three days. Meaning that, compared to other methods of measuring the Earth's position in space, they were certainly in the ballpark but not perfectly precise. But if a continuous stream of data is assumed, that accuracy improves to within a few hundred meters. Considering this is a relativistic positioning scheme – relative to objects scattered across the galaxy – that's relatively close.
If you're relatively interested in pulsar positioning, set a course for arXiv.
"turn left in 4.4 AUs, then you have arrived"
"what!? this isn't the Pillars of Creation, this the middle of nowhere!"
brb inviting ftl starship
relatively speaking this is relatively pointless?
Universal Positioning System
Galactic Positioning System
The one common misconception about space that i see in any film (in cartoons it's understandable) is that space is flat, 2d, like you're driving on the road. In space you should have complete 1080° freedom of movement, like being in water, except without the water.. the addition of the Z-axis must confuse things for people. I wonder if Earth, although in motion(but everything's in motion) should be the zero-point of the Universal Positioning System of Earthfolk (UPS-E) point 0,0,0 being the approximate center of the earth, because either way you do it, everything is going to be moving on your map constantly, just giant, faraway things are so faraway or giant that we don't notice them moving, because like the sun to the earth, they are a point of reference. whatever i'm saying, I'm just sayin' that you want to return HOME, not to the sun. if you have a HOME button, you want to drive straight for point (0,0,0), avoiding whatever potential dangers lie between, as opposed to heading for a point 93million miles from home, where if you fall asleep you get baked, literally. i would rather push HOME on my autopilot and it sets course toward 0,0,0.. North, South, East, West? Irrelevant out there. and watch for pot-holes.. and the last Starfighter
Cool, only another 50 years until were actually flying around in space and will use this technology.
*Looks at Space GPS and sees a dot in the center of a black screen* <-- Seriously you can't get any more useless than this.
good point jeditalian,
just remember, the enemy's gate is down.
I must really be either nuts, or prescient, because I thought this was the plan for spatial positioning once we get out there-for the last 25 or 30 years. Using pulsars. With some algorithm for calculating the increasing overall area, and taking into account local gravitational effects in the regions of those pulsars we select. Isn't this true?
Were going to need this for when we dial the gate to any where else besides Abydos.
Wouldnt it be IPS? Interstellar Positioning System?
Drats! No more "Lost in Space"-themed science fiction.
I wouldn't set (0,0,0) as the HOME destination when exiting hyperspace.
my schools gonna have a detector on the roof for UPS.