In a nice piece of cross-pollination between disciplines, scientists have proposed a new method for measuring the Earth’s magnetic field strength using technology developed for ground-based observational astronomy. As it turns out, the laser guide stars astronomers use to sense the turbulence high up in the atmosphere can be used as cheap and efficient magnetometers.
Astronomers and air travel maintained a peaceful coexistence for over a century. That is, until astronomers started firing powerful lasers into the atmosphere -sky dwellers, human or otherwise, are no big fan of those. Bodies like the Federal Aviation Administration and US Space Command have imposed restrictions on the use of the high-powered lasers astronomers now routinely fire into the atmosphere to assist with their observations, to prevent anything or anyone flying across the sky from potential harm from the lasers. While astronomical lasers aren’t powerful enough to physically damage an airplane, they could easily injure pilots or passengers, and damage sensitive imaging equipment on Earth-observing satellites.
Last week scientists from the University of California at San Diego reported on their work to develop an integrated aircraft warning system for astronomical telescopes, that gives accurate warnings about approaching aircraft and helps minimise the observatory downtime due to passing planes.