A paper-based process for scanning high-quality images of Earth is an intriguing prospect for future space explorers and other planetary scientists, who would like to have a way to quickly scan the sky and gather more detailed information about a planet or celestial object.
It would require no computer, and the processing power would be limited only by the amount of information available to a computer.
“There’s a big opportunity for this to become a real-time tool that can capture very large volumes of high-definition imagery,” said David B. Gillett, a professor of aerospace engineering at Cornell University and one of the co-authors of a paper on the potential for this technology to be used for future missions.
“We’re really excited about this idea,” he said.
The paper is part of a larger effort to get the technology to space.
The paper is published online in the journal Nature Communications on January 17.
The paper proposes using a laser to cut through a thin layer of glass, a material that is typically used to build electronic circuits.
The material has a thickness of only about one-tenth of a millimeter, and when laser pulses are focused on the glass, the material emits electrons and photons that interact with each other to create a unique image.
The researchers also designed a new method to use the material, called a photonic layer, to generate a high-precision image of the sky.
Using the photonic material, the researchers were able to scan a 3.5-mile-wide patch of the ocean on the northern coast of Greenland, which is about 1,000 miles from Earth.
The team then used a laser beam to measure the light emitted by the photonics layer and to measure how it diffracted in the air around the patch.
When the researchers focused their laser on a nearby patch of ice, they saw a bright, glowing glow.
Because the glow was so bright, they concluded that the light was coming from an object that was orbiting the patch of icy ocean.
They then calculated that the object was a supergiant planet, roughly the size of Jupiter.
The new paper provides a detailed look at the photonically created image, which the researchers describe as a “super-resolution mosaic of the whole sky” with an area of more than 7,500 square miles (17,000 square kilometers).
“What we’re showing is that we can generate a very large amount of data, and in a very short time, with a very low power, with an image that’s extremely sharp,” said Gillets co-author Paul P. Knepper, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The technique would work in a similar way to a digital camera.
“It would be very, very similar to what you see in digital photography, except it would take place on a computer,” Kneppers said.
The technique would also work in space, where the size and complexity of an image are so small that a computer is capable of processing the images.
“It’s a very simple technique, but it’s a lot more powerful than we thought,” Kiepper said.
The team plans to continue investigating the technology and to apply it to other kinds of images.
It has also been looking into using the technique to create the first-ever “superluminous image” of the moon, he said, which would allow a satellite to collect data from space.
The photonic technique has also found applications in a number of other areas, including 3D imaging of a variety of materials and the production of 3D models of materials, Gilleots said.
It is also being used in the development of photonics devices that could potentially be used in aerospace and military applications.
NASA’s Jet Rocket Propulsion Lab, in Pasadena