Artist's impression of Enterprise navigating by pulsar
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Dead stars 'to guide space probes'

Spacecraft could one day navigate through the cosmos using a particular type of dead star as a kind of GPS.

German scientists are developing a technique that allows for very precise positioning anywhere in space by picking up X-ray signals from pulsars.

These dense, burnt-out stars rotate rapidly, sweeping their emission across the cosmos at rates that are so stable they rival atomic clock performance.

This timing property is perfect for interstellar navigation, says Prof Werner Becker, from the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching. He first explains how spacecraft navigate today.