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Muon-based research could facilitate Arctic operations

24th November 2021 - 13:12 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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The Los Angeles-class submarine USS Hartford surfaces near Ice Camp Sargo in the Arctic Circle. (Photo: USN)

Could naturally occurring muons be the answer to the problem of how to navigate accurately in the GPS-denied Arctic?

A multinational team has won the latest Global-X Challenge competition to develop a new navigation solution for GPS-denied Arctic locations.

The winning project includes input from Finnish, Japanese, UK and US researchers and is led by Dr Chris Steer, MD of UK-based Geoptic Infrastructure Investigations Limited.

They aim in nine months to demonstrate a proof-of-concept alternative navigation system for the Arctic, using naturally occurring cosmic ray muons with equal precision to GPS as an alternative to satellite-derived data.

The Global-X Challenge is co-funded annually by the USN Office of Naval Research (ONR) and US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command.

Steer said in a 23 November statement released by the ONR: ‘Like echolocation, the timing difference between ‘pings’ — the signals from a crossing muon in our detectors – can allow the user to measure the distance from one detector to another with multiple detectors allowing location by triangulation. The technique has already been tested [successfully] in the laboratory.’

Dr Charles Eddy, lead ONR science director for the project, noted how polar navigation is becoming more important as melting icecaps open up Arctic waterways to merchant shipping and naval vessels.

He added: ‘This project, which uses cosmic relativistic particles that continuously impinge on the Earth’s entire surface, offers an innovative approach to the challenge of navigation at high latitudes with little or no GPS service.’

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