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20-Aug-2016 18:20

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The photon events are grouped into batches and processed by algorithms to extract pulse-arrival time and Doppler measurements.

A set of tools then uses these measurements to estimate the orbital outpost's position -- all needed to ultimately formulate a navigational solution.

Muslim polymath: a scientist, astronomer and astrologer, engineer and inventor, clockmaker and watchmaker, physicist and mathematician, botanist and zoologist, pharmacist and physician, Islamic judge and Mosque timekeeper, Islamic philosopher and theologian, and Madrasah teacher.

He was the author of more than 90 books on a wide variety of subjects, including astronomy, astrology, clocks, engineering, mathematics, mechanics, optics and natural philosophy, One of his books, Al-Turuq al-samiyya fi al-alat al-ruhaniyya (Arabic: الطرق السامية في الآلات الروحانية)(The Sublime Methods of Spiritual Machines) (1551), described the workings of a rudimentary steam engine and steam turbine, predating the more famous discovery of steam power by Giovanni Branca in 1629.

The pulsar-on-a-table, known as the Goddard X-ray Navigation Laboratory Testbed, was built to test and validate a next-generation X-ray navigation technology to be demonstrated on a dual-use instrument recently selected as a NASA Explorer Mission of Opportunity.

"This is a unique capability," said Jason Mitchell, an engineer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who helped develop the tabletop-size facility that simulates the rapid-fire pulsations that distinguish this unusual class of stars, considered the densest objects in the universe.

"We had to have a way to test the technology," Winternitz said.

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Because of their predictable pulsations, they can provide high-precision timing just like the atomic-clock signals supplied through the 26-satellite, military-operated GPS.

Technologists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., created what they believe is the world’s first “pulsar-on-a-table,” a laboratory system shown here for testing emerging X-ray navigation technologies.

Back row, left to right: Monther Hasouneh, John Gaebler, Harry Stello, Jennifer Valdez and Sam Price.

"This testbed enables that." But what is the facility's most notable attribute?

It's the fact that "it can simulate a pulsar," Mitchell said.Experiments with the testbed have shown that NICER/SEXTANT, once deployed, will demonstrate real-time calculations with sub-kilometer accuracy, Winternitz said.