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Planet-wide camera

Whole globe low intensity interferometer using 'amateur' telescopes
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There are now amateur astronomers all over the world. Many now have telescopes with automatic sighting (servo mounts), and most can be connected to a computer for control. Many also have adapted cameras for long exposure shots in place of a traditional viewfinder. And almost all have an internet connection. [see aperture synthesis link] The software controlling these telescopes could be linked to a central server. This server could, when the astronomer were not using the telescope themselves, point it at a predetermined target for observation. Additional control could be used to skip telescopes in areas with of poor wheather, set exposure time, and so on.The same server would collect the resulting images,and send them to a supercomputer (or a distributed computing system like folding@home) to be assembled into a single image. With a good number of telescopes (a few hundred) spread across the planet, almost the entire nightside could become one large composite lens, capable of incredibly high resolution. The actual light-gathering capability would be very low compared to a 'real' telescope, but sufficient for brighter targets of observation such as planets and nearby asteroids and comets. Continued observation of a single target for several rotations (with some telescopes even able to observe for nearly a full half-rotation) could increase the light-gathering capability. An additional benefit, if sufficient computing power were available, would be almost real-time observation of remote targets in high resolution. Imaging a live (minus the ~2000s light-speed lag) feed of volcanoes erupting the surface of Io.
EdZ, Sep 02 2009

Aperture synthesis http://en.wikipedia.../Aperture_synthesis
How multiple dispersed telescopes can create one image [EdZ, Sep 02 2009]


       hmm... hmmmmm... capturing the public's interest could result in a mass-produced (ie: inexpensive, perhaps even subsidized), network-enabled telescope/mount/control system... does every DHS Scout get one ?
FlyingToaster, Sep 02 2009

       The first paragraph in your link explains why it is not possible with inexpensive community-based equipment. That is, you need to know the relative locations of all possible pairs of telescopes in your array to within a small fraction of a wavelength of light. Given that the land surface of the earth moves tidally - not as much as the ocean, but still several inches - what are you going to use as a positional reference to attain tens-of-angstroms class placement accuracy?
lurch, Sep 02 2009

       I guess interferometry could be substituted with multi-point Lucky Imaging.
EdZ, Sep 02 2009

       You might not be able to do this with interferometry, but you could certainly create planet-wide light-field camera. Small (human-portable) light-field cameras are commonly built for computational photography research by just attaching several consumer-grade digital cameras to a wooden frame. Assuming slow-moving astronomical targets, you could easily combine that with lucky imaging at each camera.   

       However, while this all improves your baseline greatly (from <30 m (before TMT) so far, to the diameter of Earth), it doesn't improve your collecting area much, or even reduces it (from (pi)(<15 m)^2 to the sum of the amateur telescopes' collecting areas).
notexactly, Aug 16 2019


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