14 May 2015

Explosion makes space junk problem worse

US Air Force artist’s concept of DMSP

A US Air Force meteorological satellite exploded in February—possibly due to a NiCad battery exploding—adding some 100 trackable bits of debris to the growing space junk problem.

Although they spread out a lot due to the satellite's polar orbit, the orbital altitude of about 800 kilometres is more than double that of the International Space Station. The ISS moves between about 330 and 430 kilometres, as it is subjected to atmospheric drag and requires periodic boosting by the attached Soyuz capsule. The Chinese space station Tiangong-1 is at a similar altitude and the Hubble Space Telescope is around 560 kilometres (unlike how it is depicted in the movie Gravity). Geosynchronous satellites are way out at about 36,000 kilometres.

6 February 2015

Geek out with these space and science events in Canberra

There are plenty of events coming up for Canberra space and science fans, with an inevitable clash unfortunately:

  • European Space Agency mission experts on the Rosetta Mission
  • Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt on the future of science
  • Peter Garrett on ecology and climate science
  • Anna Frebel (MIT) on the search for our galaxy's oldest stars
  • Badri Younes (NASA) on the interplanetary communications and navigation network.

All of these events are free. Descriptions and details below are as published by the various event organisers.

12 November 2014

ESA's Rosetta about to launch Comet 67P lander - watch live

Philae Lander as it will look as it departs Rosetta for the landing. Picture: European Space Agency
The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission to the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is about to launch its lander known as Philae on its long slow approach to 'land' on the surface of the comet.

You can watch the separation coverage from the ESA mission control room here:

If you would like to follow the technical details more closely, there is a very good forum on NASA Spaceflight.

Rosetta was launched in March 2004, and journeyed for 10 years to rendezvous with Comet 67P in August this year. It then proceeded to photograph and map the comet in the search for a good landing site.

There's much more your can read about the mission on ESA's Rosetta website.

As I am about to post this, the Philae lander should have separated from Rosetta. We have to wait about 28 minutes before we will receive the corresponding transmission.

4 November 2014

"I'm not a scientist" said the politician…


If one is going to be making decisions on matters scientific—particularly decisions that may change the course of a nation or indeed the world—perhaps one should make a point of listening in on experts in those fields?

Break out of the 'echo chamber effect' that poisons so many people's social networks and make sure you surround yourself with genuine experts in the fields you'll be steering.

Via +CosmoQuest

(Oh my, has it really been that long since I've done a blog entry? Ingress—aka Niantic/Google, you have a lot to answer for.)

24 December 2013

Transit of the Sun by the International Space Station caught on camera

That might not look like much, but I've wanted to try to catch the International Space Station in flight for a looong time.

This was my very first attempt, with the added complexity of it being a transit across the face of the Sun.

The alert said the viewing opportunity was centred 130 kms away from my location. I recorded for several minutes but thought I'd missed it. Until I looked at the recording the next day!

12 November 2013

A kangaroo with a knot in its tail!

I was camping out at the Orroral Valley for a night of stargazing and photography. The next morning I ran into this young lady near the old historical homestead. It didn't seem to be holding her back too much. She could hop reasonably and perch - in a rather different manner from everyone else though!

31 October 2013

Can't afford a boat trip to the Antarctic? Try this instead!

This is the view today from the bow webcam on the Aurora Australis, the resupply vessel that services Australia's Antarctic bases.

Not your average cruise ship view! Not your average webcam view either…

The ship left Australia on 15 October, and was slated to return on 16 November. The latest sitrep has them here (and it is so worth your time to zoom in and look around the shoreline on this map!):

16 October 2013

Space Shuttle Endeavour's final journey—a wonderful timelapse

Long-time manned spacelaunch photographer Scott Andrews has assembled this wonderful timelapse of that famous final trip made by the Space Shuttle Endeavour through the streets of Lops Angeles, after its last flight atop NASA's 747 Shuttle transporter from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

As Time magazine explains, Andrews and a team took over 350,000 shots over 500 hours of the loading, transfer and road trip. The final video uses 9500 of those frames. My only regret is that it doesn't cover the aerial transfer itself. The flight looping over Los Angeles was pretty remarkable in its own right.

The video runs for six minutes 21 seconds and is well worth your download:

13 October 2013

It's coming right at you!

Elon Musk has just posted this hexacopter video of a Grasshopper test to 744m, hover, divert and return to the pad. The highest flight yet for Grasshopper.

It's an incredibly stable hexacopter, with a panning camera, and at one stage it really looked like it was going to be toast!

30 September 2013

Sometimes the daily cycle commute becomes a near-death experience.

I hate on-road cycle lanes, and this is part of the reason why.

The ACT Government has been fixated on them for years—obviously because they're cheaper to build. But they aren't worth this sort of risk: