back to article Tiny bits of space junk reveal their wherabouts when they collide, boffins hope

Tiny bits of space junk too small to track using current methods could be detected by a novel process using by ground-based radio dishes, according to the latest research. Big pieces of space junk, like parts of spent rocket boosters or broken satellites, are easy to spot because their orbits are known and they’re big enough …

  1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    It is a novel idea, but I do wonder how practical it is. Those DSN antennas (even the "small" 26m type) are not cheap, and they have a very narrow beamwidth (about 0.1 degrees between 3dB points), so you are only going to map a tiny area of the sky at any one time. I guess it might be useful to gather statistics of debris 'dust' density at a few locations, but you certainly are not going to catalogue much of the sky that way.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      I'd assumed they would mount an array of antennae in the focal plane so as to image an area of sky.

      Nevertheless I don't see the point other than to gather statistics. All it would tell them would be where a couple of objects once were. It won't tell anyone where they went and where they are now.

      1. Notas Badoff

        Does this 'blip' make me look full of junk?

        It would seem some equivalent of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle would apply.

        Somethings met and there was a 'blip'. You don't know how big they were (and are now) because the energy released would be partly determined by incidence angle. You don't know where they came from because you weren't measuring before the 'blip'. You can't measure where they then go because you still can't see them.

        Sounds like all you'll get are frequency statistics - how many 'blips' per unit time per unit volume.

        Hmm, might as well put up a STOP sign, wait for a bit, and count the holes.

    2. Lyndication

      DSN is also quite highly-tasked right now, as I understand it? I can't assume it can give a large proportion of its capacity to the task for a long time.

      It may be used for proof-of-concept after the computer modelling phase is done, so they can verify it actually works then look at dedicated systems?

      1. Paul Kinsler

        DSN is also quite highly-tasked right now,

        It might be they intend to do some signal processing on whatever the DSN records in its usual operations; in which case it might not require any dedicated time at all.

      2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Looking right now, one of the smaller dishes here in Madrid is doing a test, and the large one isn't doing anything...

  2. DS999 Silver badge

    I wonder how many of those 100 million objects

    Are man made? It isn't as though there is a size limit for asteroids, and not everything drawn in by Earth's gravity will impact right away. Some of it will be captured and enter some form of orbit.

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