Press Release

Solar System Radar and Radio Science Research Shows Promise Using Radio Transient Observation in Unexplored Space

By SpaceRef Editor
May 25, 2011
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Cites Strides in Monitoring Near-Earth Objects

Leading IEEE Journal Cites Advances by Esteemed NASA Researchers

A “hot” topic in space exploration is transient activity, which is one of 12 topics discussed in the May issue on the subject of Solar System Radar & Radio Science of Proceedings of the IEEE, the world’s most highly-cited general interest journal in electrical engineering and computer science.

The paper entitled “A Prototype Radio Transient Survey Instrument for Piggyback Deep Space Network Tracking” defines NASA’s Deep Space Network as a tool for making radio transient observations. The authors discuss invigorated interest in using radio transient phenomena to observe short-lived and impulsive space events and detail how it could be deployed to acquire data for extended periods and improve statistics of rare radio transient events, heretofore not considered tractable.

The issue discusses recent advances in solar system radar and radio science. Both ground-based and space-based systems as well as hybrid systems are reviewed. Solar system radar has travelled light years since 1961 when the first pioneering strides were made in this field at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. And progress using Radio Science for scientific exploration now provides scientists with the opportunity to observe and investigate gaseous planets, the atmosphere of Titan, the rings of Saturn, the solar corona and more.

For those awake at night worrying that an asteroid might hit the earth, this issue has an article that may help improve their chances for sleep. According to “Goldstone Solar System Radar Observatory: Earth-Based Planetary Mission Support and Unique Science Results,” all near-Earth objects which have been monitored with the Goldstone Radar have had their orbits extended for hundreds of years. What this means is that if an asteroid’s orbit is “secure” in this way, any chance of this particular asteroid impacting the Earth is ruled out.

This meticulous monitoring is performed at Goldstone Solar System Radar (GSSR), which is the only fully steerable radar in the world for high-resolution ranging and imaging of planetary and small body targets. Located in California’s Mojave Desert, the precise level of detection has recently been improved by use of a chirp waveform signal to reach never-before-achieved levels of range resolution precision.

The presence of ice in lunar craters is a significant finding in, “The Lunar Mini-RF Radars: Hybrid Polarimetric Architecture and Initial Results.” The authors chronicle the use of mini radio frequency (RF) lunar radars on board the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft of ISRO and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that can peer into many craters whose interiors are known to be in solar shadow throughout the lunar year. Results show that the polarimetric signatures from approximately 100 such craters are consistent with the response that would be expected from substantial volumetric ice deposits.

Among other topics covered in this issue of Proceedings of the IEEE are using antenna array as a radar transmitter; NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter MRO to identify traces of water ice on or below the Martian surface, an experiment for obtaining bistatic and polarimetric radar scattering signatures of the Martian surface and a processing approach for the open-loop reception of radio science signals.

SpaceRef staff editor.