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New method of detecting ?

  1. Apr 2, 2004 #1
    Upon reading about the discovery of Sedna and thinking about other objects that may lay beyond Pluto I thought of an interesting way of possibly viewing these darker objects.
    Would it be possible to send a very large object into space beyond Jupiter that would emit a very bright flash, brighter than our sun? If we did this may we be able to capture the light that is reflected back from objects that would not be so detectable with our Sun's natural light reflection?
    Essentially "shedding light" on the outter reaches of our Solar System?
    It's also similiar to taking a picture using a flash.
    Just another random thought I thought I would throw out.
    Kind Regards,
    Memnoch
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 2, 2004 #2

    Janitor

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    A highly inventive idea! I wonder if anyone has ever even thought along those lines? Some sort of nuclear blast or something might light that sucker up pretty good. But even in the Hubble Telescope, I wonder if a planetoid (if that's what you call it) would be much more than a momentarily bright dot of light.

    From a cost effectiveness point of view, I suppose just sending a Galileo-type probe out there to take relatively long exposures of the object from close up in ordinary dim sunlight will continue to be the way to go.
     
  4. Apr 2, 2004 #3

    Janitor

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    I remember that when a good-sized comet hit Jupiter in a dozen or so pieces, one after the other, there were some flashes of light, but it still took a professional, high-dollar telescope to see the light. I am not sure if current technology would even be able to match that quantity of short-duration light, let alone provide some sort of long-duration light.
     
  5. Apr 2, 2004 #4
    Yeah, good point. I was thinking of sending Tons upon Tons of Magnesium up since it burns brighter than the sun I think. :)
     
  6. Apr 2, 2004 #5

    Janitor

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    Did you see a chemistry link provided by Monique today in another thread? There are some videos there of some highly reactive chemicals flaring up, including sodium. I think one of the videos involved strips of magnesium laid on dry ice.
     
  7. Apr 2, 2004 #6
    Hmmm, Very cool article!
    Back in High School I accidently ignited Magnesium. Thankfully the class was wearing tinted goggles. My teacher at that time told us how Magnesium burned brighter than the light our Sun produced. It also burns within H20. It did unfortunetly burn the top of the desk but thankfully it wasn't the whole spindle of Magnesium. LOL
    All that was required to ignite it was a bunsen burner.
    Magnesium is also very light compared to other metals.
    It wouldn't take much force to send enough up for the right lighting effect to produce a "flash". heh
     
  8. Apr 3, 2004 #7

    Integral

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    When Mg burns it is an oxidation process, so O2[/sup] is required. The mass required to do what you want is prohibitive. It would also take an equally prohibitive mass of fusible material to produce enough light to illuminate anything on such a scale.
     
  9. Apr 3, 2004 #8
    If we can barely see Sedna with our current technology and light is highly weak in that area due to it's distance from the sun, then I'm sure we can reveal more if we bring a powerful enough flash to a certain distance and ignite it somehow.
    That or maybe attach a highly sensitive light reciever to the device you'd be sending so it could capture all objects the light reflected off of.
    I see what you're saying in regards to having large enough mass.
    Would detonating a nuclear explosive like Janitor mentioned be feasible to produce enough light for highly sensitive recievers to pick up reflective objects?
     
  10. Apr 3, 2004 #9

    Janitor

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    I just checked a website, and saw that the largest pieces of the comet Shoemaker-Levy to hit Jupiter detonated with the equivalent of 6 million megatons of TNT. Compare that to the relatively piddling 15 megatons that the largest U.S. nuclear bomb test released. Does anybody know if the comet strike on Jupiter's atmosphere made any of the Jovian moons look significantly brighter than normal?

    On the other hand, during WW II flares dropped by aircraft over blacked-out European cities ahead of a wave of night bombers lit up the cities well enough for the bombardiers to see their targets. As Integral points out, you would need to provide an oxidizer if you were going to use a magnesium flare. I could just about see a lander dropping some appropriately oxidized flare a few thousand feet above the surface on its way down, to get some pictures of a well-lit landscape during the last part of its descent. The downside is that every extra pound of payload weight costs dearly in terms of booster rocket size for a mission to the outer solar system, and if including flares meant leaving off certain instruments, there would be quite a political wrangle over it among scientists, I would think.
     
  11. Apr 3, 2004 #10
    But if something is as bright as the sun, wouldn't it also be exceptionally hot? Hot enough to force environmentally chaotic reactions to occur on planets? If it was as hot as the sun, it would probably be able to affect our planet, mars (we'll finally be able to make the CO2(?) ice on mars melt!). Would it also affect the astroid belt in any way?
     
  12. Apr 3, 2004 #11
    I don't belive it would. If you see a flash of lightning do you feel it's heat?
     
  13. Apr 5, 2004 #12
    Lightening occurs for a brief moment, and it is not as bright as the sun.
     
  14. Apr 5, 2004 #13
    Very true, Lightning is brief.
    My idea works as if you were taking a picture so to speak so you would not need a prolonged burn or flash. That would just get in the way of capturing the light reflected from objects in space and the timing. You'd end up flooding the film with unnecessary light. It's like taking a picture. Send a very bright object in space to produce an emmence flash of light. Then using our awesome technology, capture the light that's reflected off objects that our camera's cannot really detect from here on Earth. Just like taking a picture so to speak and using the Flash from your camera.
    If the light reflected was too dim then why not send a highly advanced camera along the way, trailing the flasher/ flash emmiting device, to capture the reflection at that distance.
    If you read my first post you'd see that this idea came from the article I read about the Sedna object found in space. A small red ice planet that we recently found right beyond Pluto. Apparently that object wasn't emmitting much light due to it's distance from the Sun. Why not bring the Sun, so to speak, to the outter rim to create a massive flash so our camera's can capture the light reflected from other objects?
    This idea also might work with discovering more objects within the Asteroid belt.
    My lightning question was just an analogy as to not being able to feel heat from a lightning bolt yet the lightning bolt produces a large flash.
    I'm sure if you send an object to the desolate regions of space that produces a flash as powerful as our sun it wouldn't have an effect on our planet since it's obviously not having an effect on an ice planet called Sedna.
    It would just possibly illuminate more objects within a region of space that we cannot really see based on the distance of those objects from our Sun.
     
  15. Apr 5, 2004 #14

    chroot

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    It's an interesting idea, but totally unfeasible with existing space technology. It'll probably never be feasible. Believe it or not, it's much, much cheaper to design, build, and launch a super-sophisticated telescope array like the Terrestrial Planet Finder than it is to send up tons and tons of magnesium -- and the 'scopes a heck of a lot more useful, to boot. Sending mass to orbit is exceptionally, exceptionally expensive in terms of $/kg. Sending large masses to interplanetary space is just not reasonable, and probably never will be.

    - Warren
     
  16. Apr 5, 2004 #15
    Electrical sparks or something similiar? The magnesium catch was just another random idea thrown out for the concept.
    Collect hydrogen along the way and then fuse it into one large electrical spark. Send a telescope behind the light emmitting device and capture the reflection :)
    That or build a static electricity collection device that uses friction to build a static charge. Using the motion of a craft I'm sure you could create a wheel type device that would build a static charge. Release that static charge unto a planet or designated object that would act as a ground and then you'd produce an amazing flash :) heh
    Just throwing out ideas based on the concept :)
    Thx for the support though guys :) You all Rock! :)
    -=|peace|=-
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2004
  17. Apr 5, 2004 #16

    Phobos

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    Very creative idea, Memnoch. Maybe there's something that could be done (e.g., if there was a particular area where you suspected something dark existed you wanted to light up rather than blasting vast regions of space). My first impression though is to agree with chroot that it would be cheaper & more efficient to build better telescopes.
     
  18. Apr 5, 2004 #17
    Well, with the new form of glass thats just been developed it may be more cost effective to build a telescope. Although using energy collecting technology from the late 1800's to early 1900's might save some money too :)
    It could be a joint project through with other countries if finding what other celestial bodies are at our Solar Systems edge is that serious. That or discovering more asteroids and so on.
    It might also be another way to utilize our current situation within space in regards to enhancing areas our current satelites cannot view. Such as with Uropa or other bodies of Jupiter. There's actually a lot of applicible uses with this idea for counting objects in space even. The device could constantly build a charge after it's already discharged it's capacity and then produce more flashes for object tracking purposes.
    It's kinda like using Light like Sonar. :)
     
  19. Apr 11, 2004 #18

    Nereid

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    If Sedna were on the other side of the solar system, how much brighter would the Memnoch flash have to be? I mean, it's currently ~75 au away in THIS direction, so to light it up with a flash, you'd have to be reasonably close to it; but what if it were ~75 au away in a completely different direction?

    Another way of asking this is: "how do you know in which direction to look (for anything like a Sedna)?"

    It's a bit like radar astronomy; we can get - from here on Earth - radar images of Venus, Mercury, even Titan, but only because we know where they are (and radar is a bit like Memnoch's flash, only much much much cheaper to produce).

    Finally, Sedna isn't all that difficult to 'see'; I predict within a year or two there will be reports of amateur astronomers showing CCD pictures to friends, with arrows pointing to a tiny dot that is Sedna. Objects like Sedna are hard to find because there are ~>1 billion 'tiny dots' in the whole sky - which ones are Sednas? Indeed, there are projects on the drawing board for telescopes that should be able to find hundreds of Sednas a year (if they exist), all for less $$ than is spent on petfood over a long weekend.
     
  20. Apr 12, 2004 #19
    Well the concept doesn't only revolve around Sedna but also other dim objects in space like maybe Asteroids? Recently NASA is pumping more funds into finding objects in space that are hard to detect and may pose future threat to the earth. This might be another way to find them.
    I was thinking that whatever device that emits the flash would have to be brighter or as bright as our sun but only for a split second. Then capture the photons that are emmitted by maybe Hubble in the direction of the flash? Essentially you would see 2 flashes. One from the first flash and the second from the reflection of the photons off of nearby objects.
    Radar is pretty cheap and sending that out into space may also help NASA since it's pretty cost effective.
    I was thinking that a flash might be a bit more powerful than Radar and also may not get jammed like Radar can be.
    In regards to knowing where to place this flash then one would have to rely on what we already know of known objects and how they're affected by Gravity and potential objects that may have influence on them.
    A while ago there was a big propaganda stunt by the media claiming there was a distant planet that was affecting the orbits of Saturn and Uranus. Place the flash in the general direction and try to illuminate that area to see what we cannot see already.
    Or with Asteroids, place the flash in the asteroid belt and count the asteroids that light reflects from.
    If you use a repeated flash then you may be able to track the asteroids movement if we cannot see them already.
    It may be possible to use Blue light since blue light travels farther than any other color in the spectrum. Well, underwater that applies and I'm not sure if that applies to space. But it may be more detectable by our sensors that would capture the photons.
    Just random ideas thrown out. heh
    Thanks for all the responces! :)
     
  21. Apr 12, 2004 #20

    chroot

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    1) No one really cares about detecting asteroids. There are hundreds of thousands of them, and there's no real need to know all their exact locations.

    2) Comets and other bodies that pose a threat to Earth are generally very long-period objects, or objects in hyperbolic orbits that only come close to the Earth one time. Using some giant flash in space has essentially no chance of finding them.

    3) Radar jamming is an activity used by the military (generally) to prevent their aircraft or other vehicles from appearing on the enemy's radar. No one is jamming astronomical radar instruments.

    4) Light of all frequencies travels equally well through empty space. The dust in interstellar space absorbs visibile light more than infrared light, however, but we're not talking about interstellar distances.

    Bottom line, yet again: it's not feasible, and there are better ways to detect objects.

    - Warren
     
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