Free Electron Laser Communication with Exoplanets and Other Space Applications


Wednesday, September 01 2010 - 12:00 pm, PDT
Bill Colson
Distinguished Professor, Physics Department, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey CA

The U.S. Navy is developing a Free Electron Laser with MW-level average output power, as reported in a recent National Academy Report.*  Several scientific space applications appear to be interesting and feasible, including power beaming to satellites, space stations, or space vehicles.  New proposals also include scientific investigation of the moon and nearby planets using an FEL stationed on earth, but capable of illuminating small areas of these objects with light spectrally brighter than the sun, permitting direct observations at tunable, selectable wavelengths.  It also appears possible to use such an FEL to send detectable signals out to 50 light-years or more, conceivably providing communications capability across such distances.  Invoking the concept of reciprocity, it could be we should be looking for such signals from intelligent civilizations on exoplanets.  A plan for such exploration is suggested.
* Scientific Assessment of High-Power Free Electron Laser Technology, National Academy of Sciences, Board on Physics and Astronomy Report (2009)

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