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Nuclear fusion flashbulb

Proactive astronomy
  [vote for,

Launch moderate-sized thermonuclear devices into orbits outside Jupiter or Saturn.

Time the detonation so that the flash occurs when the device is transiting behind one of the planets.

The flash will briefly illuminate small, distant objects such as comets. A suitable optical or infra-red telescope could yeild quite a lot of useful data from each flash.

8th of 7, May 11 2017

Nuclear lightbulb https://en.wikipedi...i/Nuclear_lightbulb
Not the same thing, but perhaps also applicable to this endeavor [notexactly, May 13 2017]

EMP https://en.wikipedi...ectromagnetic_pulse
Very, very loud and expensive... [8th of 7, May 13 2017]

https://what-if.xkcd.com/73/ [hippo, May 13 2017]


       I imagine pairs of flashes could be very insightful, too, particularly if the time between them was known very accurately - something which I believe is quite possible with thermonuclear weapons.
Wrongfellow, May 11 2017

       hmmmm... - <handwaving> the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima released about 60 x 10^12 Joules of energy. The surface of a sphere 1,000,000 km in radius (i.e. really, really tiny in astronomical terms) is about 12 x 10^12 km^2, so the energy per square km is about 5 Joules. Sunlight at the earth's surface is 1.3 x 10^9 W/km^2, so you're about 9 orders of magnitude away from sunlight with this illumination (and of course, sunlight is continuous, not a brief flash). </handwaving>

This kind of calculation makes you appreciate how much energy the sun must be putting out to be able to deliver 1.3kW/m^2 to the Earth's surface, 150m km away...
hippo, May 11 2017

       <Father Ted>   

       "These are very small ... the ones out there are far away ..."   

       </Father Ted>   

       Of course it's nowhere near the same illumination as your planet gets, but it will be more than the ambient illumination. And it's controllable; an instant yes/no result, little flashes of reflected light with a precisely known spectrum and intensity curve.
8th of 7, May 11 2017

       Jupiter is about 5 times as far away from the sun as the Earth, so asteroids at that distance should receive 1/25th of the energy per unit of surface area as we do on the Earth. So these objects you're hoping to detect will still be receiving 7 or 8 orders of magnitude more light from the sun than from your bomb.
hippo, May 11 2017

       Yes ... that's not the point. It's not the absolute magnitude, it's the controlled change in magnitude at a known time that's useful.
8th of 7, May 11 2017

       //asteroids at that distance should receive 1/25th of the energy//   

       This is a problem. Especially as the flash lasts, as far as I can tell <1ms, although it doesn't matter if that's wrong by 100 fold. To solve the problem of a small amount of light coming back, normally you'd just increase the light duration and keep the shutter open longer. That's not going to work here. It would work for closer, tricky to observe moon surfaces and such.
bs0u0155, May 11 2017

       //it's the controlled change in magnitude at a known time that's useful// - controlled change, for 1ms, 7 or 8 orders of magnitude dimmer than the ambient light

There's a very small chance this approach might work if you first go out there and coat all these undetected objects with mirrors.
hippo, May 11 2017

       //objects with mirrors//   

       Or fluorophores carefully lined up with the notches in the sun spectrum.
bs0u0155, May 11 2017

       Thing is, what would be the point? CGI can give you really super pictures of asteroids, comets and even giant spiders.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 11 2017

       //[T]he flash occurs when the device is transiting behind one of the planets.//   

       So, presumably there won't be any sunlight hitting the target objects at the same time as the flash?   

       //CGI can give you really super pictures of asteroids, comets and even giant spiders.//   

       But CGI explosions aren't real.
Wrongfellow, May 11 2017

       They must be - I've seen them in the movies.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 11 2017

       You mean Tom Cruise is real too? <shudders>
Wrongfellow, May 11 2017

       Yrs, but fortunately he's only about 7 inches tall.
RayfordSteele, May 11 2017

       ... and what's more, if you look really closely, you can see the strings ...
8th of 7, May 11 2017

       Why do I have the uncomfortable feeling that this is just all leading up to some gag about flashing Uranus, 8th? 'Gag' being the operative word here.
AusCan531, May 11 2017

       From A. C. Clarke's SETI League guest editorial, "Where is everybody?":   

       "In my 1993 novel, The Hammer of God, I described the possibility of a gigaton bomb being exploded in Earth orbit, but on the other side of the Sun, so that microwaves from that explosion will sweep right across the solar system, in all directions. Thus Project EXCALIBUR helped detect not only all the known satellites, comets and asteroids, but every object more than a metre in diameter."   

       So, at least previously half-baked.
lurch, May 11 2017

       To be developed by a nuclear fusion flashmob.
pashute, May 12 2017

       /microwaves from that explosion/   

       Does a fusion bomb radiate across the spectrum?
bungston, May 13 2017


8th of 7, May 13 2017

       We might as well use the biggest bomb we can - so 100 Megatons which is something like 5000 times more than Hiroshima. And maybe it's possible to shape the blast so it forms a cone rather than a sphere - let's assume we can and we can focus all the energy into 1/10 of the surface of a sphere. Hopefully, this will make things a bit brighter.   

       Obviously, we would need lots pointing is all different directions, but that's OK.
DenholmRicshaw, May 13 2017

       Shirley you don't want to mess around with a piddly H-bomb; what you want is a supernova. I read somewhere that, if the sun went nova and you were standing on Earth looking at it, the energy that would hit your retina would be approximately the same as if you had your eye pressed up against the casing of an H-bomb when it went off. That is going to be some serious dazzle.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 13 2017

       That was on XKCD (link) - a supernova seen from the Earth at the distance the sun is from the Earth would be brighter than an atom bomb exploding in your face - about a billion times brighter
hippo, May 13 2017

       I think it's one of those questions that can only be settled by experimentation.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 13 2017

       Actually those two things work synergetically.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 13 2017

       You're right, of course. Come on, [bungston], you're up next. Just stand there, on those chalk marks, and look towards the big cylindrical thing on the cradle ...
8th of 7, May 13 2017

       Stand down, [bung]. I've just found a ShitZu.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 13 2017


       "Put the Ewok down, and step away from the thermonuclear weapon"   

8th of 7, May 14 2017


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