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Astronomers Want to Blast Space Junk by Strapping a Laser to a Telescope

It’s getting crowded up in space: more than 500,000 pieces of debris orbit the Earth (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/news/orbital_debris.html). Most of the orbital debris is man-made objects that no longer serve a purpose (old satellites, rockets, and mission-related debris).

These objects travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph. At this speed, a relatively small piece of debris —even tiny paint flecks— can do some major damage to a satellite or a spacecraft. In fact, a number of space shuttle windows have been replaced because of damage caused by flecks of paint.

“We may finally have a way to stop the headache of rapidly growing space debris that endangers space activities,” said Toshikazu Ebisuzaki, a UC Irvine-based researcher leading the effort. His system could remove most of the centimeter-sized debris within five years of operation.

Here’s how it would work: EUSO, a new Japanese space telescope, would spot the debris using it’s powerful optics and wide field of view. This telescope could be combined with a high-energy laser system known as CAN (http://www.nature.com/nphoton/journal/v7/n4/full/nphoton.2013.75.html). Ebisuzaki believes that CAN’s plasma pulse could hit the debris and slow it down — so much so that it falls out of orbit and burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Ebisuzaki and his team are getting ready to deploy a small proof-of-concept experiment on the International Space Station.

Source>>
http://ucresearch.tumblr.com/post/124673707676/blasting-space-junk-with-a-laser-its-getting

Read the full story over at Motherboard>>
http://motherboard.vice.com/read/astronomers-want-to-blast-space-junk-by-strapping-a-laser-to-a-telescope?utm_source=mbtwitter

#solar_system, #space_junk, #EUSO_space_telescope, #CANs_plasma_pulse, #ISS, #astronomy, #space
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