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 the team.
If a spacecraft carried the means to detect the pulses, it could compare their arrival times with those predicted at a reference location. This would enable the craft to determine its position to an accuracy of just five kilometres anywhere in the galaxy.