Extra Credit Project: A neutron telescope?

Mr. Munich describes an idea for a new type of telescope: the neutron telescope. A very simple schematic diagram of the device is shown below:

Simple and elegant, isn't it? With the proper shielding, the device can detect neutrons from one direction only.

Is this a breakthrough for astronomers? Or are there reasons that this might not be the best use of resources? Your job: help us to make the decision by looking for the answers to these two questions.

  1. Do astronomers know of many sources of neutrons in the (local) universe? If so, what are they? Why might neutrons be a better messenger from such objects than photons?
  2. One might imagine that some neutrons from space might be travelling relatively slowly -- at non-relativistic speeds of 1 km/sec or 30 km/sec or 300 km/sec. One might imagine that other neutrons, produced by some different sources, might be travelling at relativistic speeds. Is it easy to build a single telescope which can detect both types of neutrons with the same efficiency? Why, or why not?

Write your answers to these questions on a sheet of paper and hand them in before Oct 12, 2012.

This page maintained by Michael Richmond. Last modified Sep 20, 2012.