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Astronomy

Philip Lubin: A space-based array for planetary defense

A solar-powered, modular phased array of lasers designed to heat the surface of possibly threatening objects could provide protection for our planet.

22 November 2013, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201311.06

Philip Lubin is a professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose primary research has been focused on studies of the early universe in the millimeter wavelengths bands. His group has designed, developed and fielded more than two dozen ground-based and balloon-borne missions and helped develop two major cosmology satellites. Among other accomplishments his group first detected the horizon-scale fluctuations in the Cosmic Microwave Background from both their South Pole and balloon-borne systems 20 years ago. Their latest results, along with international teams of ESA and NASA researchers, are from the Planck cosmology mission, which mapped in exquisite detail the structures of the early universe, released in March 2013.

Lubin's proposed DE-STAR (Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroid and exploration) system is a modular phased array of lasers to raise the surface spot temperature of an object, allowing direct evaporation of all known substances. The system will heat the surface of an asteroid and eject evaporated material, which would create a large reaction force to alter the asteroid's orbit. With many other potential functions including the cleanup of "space junk," the DE-STAR's modular design allows for incremental development, test, and initial deployment.

Lubin received his PhD in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1980. He is co-recipient of the 2006 Gruber Prize in Cosmology along with the COBE science team for their groundbreaking work in cosmology. He has published more than 200 articles.