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sabato 23 dicembre 2017

Why adding radar capabilities to the SKA would be a force multiplication

From the Battle of Britain to the one for Earth. From the Alexanders to an 'Alexandra' and her prophecies. Why adding radar capabilities to the SKA would be a force multiplication. If only all antennas would be equipped with radar transmitters..

A Royal Observer Corps spotter on a rooftop scans the skies of London during the Battle of Britain (1940). In the background, the undamaged St Paul's Cathedral surrounded by smoke and bombed-out buildings.

Historia est Magistra Vitae. If History is life's teacher, this means that the study of the Battle of Britain should serve as a lesson to the future. When the time came, research funds were allocated and the Radar (acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging) and Dowding system won the Battle of Britain, defeating the much larger Luftwaffe forces. Not only a test of our moral strengths but even of technological superiority, where the best technology could track larger numbers of aircraft with a higher degree of accuracy and direct interceptors to them.
"The Battle of Britain might never have been won… if it were not for the radar chain." Sir William Sholto Douglas (1893-1969), Marshal of the Royal Air Force.
Now, behind every best technology very often there is a good physicist and Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt (1892-1973), direct descendent of James Watt who had invented the condensing steam engine, is considered to be the father and its pioneer. 

Coming to the present day, another Alexander, Prof. Paul Alexander, is working on the delicate algorithm of The Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world’s largest radio telescope, with eventually over a square kilometre of collecting area. 

Now, it appears as we don't really like impact events due to their physical consequences. We don't like a fist in the face in a pub while drinking an Aspall cider as the impacts of objects dropped during the Blitz. The Nazism had a one-way trajectory impacting with London's values but it may be not alone in the history. 

This time in the background, an artist’s impression of the interstellar asteroid "Oumuamua"
1I/2017 U1 (`Oumuamua) was a fast-moving interstellar 400-meter long asteroid, rocky or with high metal content. The visitor came from outside our solar system and its surface was dark and reddened just to appear more sinister. Never been gravitationally bound to the Solar System, that object again imposed its one-way trajectory.

This is the reason why I strongly believe that SKA, one of the largest scientific endeavours in history, should become even the Earth's radar and finally implement a real planetary defence.
We need an Earth's radar to detect the possibility and warn of potential asteroid or comet impacts with Earth, and then either prevent them or mitigate their possible effects. 

The fact that no known asteroid poses a significant risk of impact with Earth over the next 100 years doesn't mean that we can postpone the lesson from the Battle of Britain. Impact craters are dominant and evident landforms on many of the Solar System's solid objects and it is worth to remind that in 2004 an asteroid (99942 Apophis) caused a period of concern because initial observations indicated a probability of up to 2.7% that it would hit Earth. Another object, Chelyabinsk meteor saw almost 1,500 people being injured in 2013. Not to mention that a substantial number of potential targets are not being monitored.
Imke de Pater, Professor at the University of California in Berkeley and acting on this article as an 'Alexandra' (Cassandra), wrote: "I further strongly urge to add radar capabilities, since SKA can improve substantially on imaging of asteroids and cometary's halo. SKA is roughly a factor of 100 more sensitive than existing telescopes. If all antennas would be equipped with radar transmitters to a total of 10 or 100 MW, radar observations with SKA could be several times more sensitive than can be achieved with Arecibo nowadays.

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