You can bet that if there are little red aliens running around on Mars or spaceships patrolling other planet in our solar system for that matter, a recently powered-up telescope built by the researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency might just be able to see them.
The Air Force, which operates the DARPA-developed Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) says the telescope's design, featuring unique image-capturing technology known as a curved charge coupled device (CCD) system, as well as very wide field-of-view, large-aperture optics, doesn't require the long optics train of a more traditional telescopes. The design makes the SST less cumbersome on its moveable mount, enabling it to survey the sky rapidly, the Air Force says. The telescope's mount uses advanced servo-control technology, making the SST one of the most agile telescopes of its size ever built.
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"The SST will give us in a matter of nights the space surveillance data that current telescopes take weeks or months to provide," said Air Force Lt. Col. Travis Blake, DARPA's Space Surveillance Telescope program manager in a statement.
From DARPA: "Beyond providing faster data collection, the SST is very sensitive to light, which allows it to see faint objects in deep space that currently are impossible to observe. The detection and tracking of faint objects requires a large aperture and fast optics. The SST uses a 3.5 meter primary mirror, which is large enough to achieve the desired sensitivity. The system is an f/1.0 optical design, with a large-area mosaic CCD camera constructed from the curved imagers and a high-speed shutter allowing for fast scanning at the high sensitivity."
The SST has a number of missions, watching for debris in low earth orbit to help existing satellites avoid collisions chief among them, it also tracks objects in deep space and offers astronomers a wide-angle lens to take astronomical surveys of stars and comets, DARPA says.
DARPA says the SST developed its first images earlier this year and is still undergoing tests.
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