Ball Aerospace, the folks who currently supply you with the hardware behind your Google Maps and Google Earth images, are about to launch their most powerful telescope yet. The third in the company's Worldview telescope series, it will be powerful enough to see objects on the ground as small as 10 inches across. Of course, you'll never see those images, because you don't have clearance.
What the public will be able to see is a resolution that can depict objects 20 inches across, half the quality of those customers within the government will have access to. That's a comforting thought, and one which will no doubt lend credence to a number of conspiracy theories out there, but at least the Worldview-3 won't be fixing its lens on you all the time. It'll be too busy hurtling through space at roughly 18,000 miles per hour — fast enough to cover the entire globe every couple of days.
Unlike other massive telescopes already in the heavens, the Worldview-3 won't be snapping individual images, but rather recording continuous ribbon-like images that might resemble the Earth as an unraveled ball of twine, if viewed in their raw form. Even at a height of 370 miles, the new telescope will be able to fix its lens on certain object for at least a little while as it zips by.
Worldview-3 also be capable of seeing things that the human eye simply cannot, like the infrared spectrum. Ball Aerospace states that this will allow the Worldview-3 to identify man-made or natural materials. So much for that secret bunker you were planning on surviving the apocalypse in. Ball Aerospace program manager Jeff Dierks has no such reservations, however. Every time the satellites he helped build fly by, he steps into his yard to wave hello. Worldview-3 is slated to launch later this year.