Laser radar for planetary astronomy (Speaker: Jane Luu, MIT Lincoln Laboratory)

Tuesday, April 15,
4:00pm to 5:00pm

Astrophysics Colloquium

Laser radar is the technique of illuminating a target with a laser beam and detecting the reflected light. The most distant object detected by laser radar so far is the Moon; lunar ranging experiments can now measure the distance to the Moon with millimeter accuracy. But why stop at the Moon? We now have all the tools -- 10m-class telescopes, powerful lasers and nearly noiseless photon-counting detectors ??? to probe much more of the solar system with laser radar. Although laser power cannot compete with the Sun, its directionality and timing capability allows measurements that are simply not possible with sunlight, such as ranging (measuring distance) and tomography ??? all with sub-diffraction limited resolution. I will describe the outline for a ground-based planetary laser radar system.