Armageddon, Deep Impact and their ilk from silver screens have sufficiently demonstrated (albeit with a bit of cheesiness) how alien, undetected asteroids can threaten the very existence of earth-bound human kind. Now, we wouldn’t have gone so far as to use the hyperbole – if scientists didn’t have an answer for such a catastrophic scenario. But as it turns out, the European Space Agency (ESA) has come up with quite a definitive ‘asteroid prevention’ solution in the form of the so-called automated, mass-producible fly-eye telescope.
The thing that really impresses us about the aptly-named fly-eye telescope is the simple principle upon which the advanced device will be designed. In fact, its name comes from the compound eye of real-time flies – a crucial biological part of the tiny organisms that allows them to avoid your ill-timed blows and swats by observing the trajectory of your hands. Similarly, the ESA-designed contraption will boast of a specially devised ‘fly-eye’ scope that can dissect the field of view (FOV) into 16 different images. In other words, the telescope will have the ability to cover a vast expanse of the sky, which could be instrumental in detecting motional objects traveling across the expansive realm.
There is a certain drawback in this ‘compound vision’ mechanism, as the the device won’t be able to focus with a high resolution on the object. Analogous to big chunks of low-res pixels, the detailed overview of the telescope’s subject will be vague to say the least. But in spite of this seeming disadvantage, the fly-eye is a result of an intentional design consideration. This is because the device will be used for mapping the trajectory of specific sky-borne objects, as opposed to maintaining a precise profile of it. So, ultimately the telescope can be used as an alerting system for any impending asteroid – and then other more-advanced mechanisms can take over the scenario, in case of an emergency.
When translated to solid specs, the fly-eye telescope’s resolution would be similar to that of a one-meter (3.29 ft) telescope, while its impressive FOV will account for 13-times the dia of Moon, which equals to an astronomical 28,067 miles or 45,200 km. ESA estimates that each device will have the optimized capacity to detect 40 m dia (or more) objects, while they are 3 weeks away from potentially impacting earth. And, the best part is – the monitoring contraptions can be produced in mass-scale with low-cost, modular as well as autonomous attributes.
Finally, as for the developmental side of affairs, Italy’s CGS SpA has already taken a contract to make a detailed design of the fly-eye telescope. If it is approved, the blueprint will make way for a full fledged $10 million prototype by next year, as a definitive ‘star’ of ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) program line-up.