Thursday, November 29, 2007
(Partial) Spacesuit Answer
6:14 am est
Anyone familiar with the book Starship Troopers
(not the movie) knows about the battelsuit: powered armor which augments the soldiers' strength while at the same time protecting
the soldier from extreme environments, including vacuum. As usual, science fiction is becoming closer to science fact
. This is one potential solution for inflated spacesuits, since the mechanical advantage of the armor may overcome the resistance
of the suit. The gloves, always a weak spot for spacesuits, will still be an issue.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
9:38 pm est
is a good article about some of the uncertainties of tracking Apophis
, but the title mentions 'how to deal with rogue asteroids.' That is only mentioned at the end of the article.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
So you Wanna...
6:38 pm est
...contribute to the search for minor planets? I found this page
today which is a guide to minor body astronomy from the Minor Planet Center
. It looks like they're ready to help out quite a bit to get you started. Here's a favorite answer about restrictions placed
on naming your observatory:
...we are fairly liberal in the observatory names that we allow into the MPCs. At least
two amateur-owned sites have names with connections to the popular TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation. Where is
the dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable? This is determined on a case-by-case basis. Using a popular character
from the well-known TV series The X Files as an example, "Scully Observatory" would probably be acceptable, but "ScullyIsAGoddess
Monday, November 26, 2007
7:27 pm est
I'm playing around with JPL's Horizons
system, which will give you positions of planets, moons, and small bodies in the solar system. They advise that you contact
them if you're actually planning a mission with the system, as brought to light within the directions
IF YOUR CAREER OR SPACECRAFT DEPENDS ON A NON-LUNAR NATURAL SATELLITE OR SMALL-BODY EPHEMERIS, CONTACT JPL BEFORE
USING IT. YOU MUST HAVE ADDITIONAL INFORMATION TO CORRECTLY UNDERSTAND EPHEMERIS LIMITATIONS AND UNCERTAINTIES
OK, I get it.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Any Good Idea, Part X
9:12 am est
Earlier this year, I also thought that a good effort for the BOINC
distributed computing system would be generating high-accuracy ephemeris for near-Earth objects. Apparently, I didn't blog
about it, but I did post a question to an email group I'm a part of. Once again, it turns out someone else already thought
of it. My title was "NEO@home", but the one that's been worked on much more is orbit@home
. Apparently, it's an outgrowth of ORSA
, the Orbit Reconstruction, Simulation, and Analysis software. Looks like not much has happened recently on orbit@home.
My interest waned when I found how extensive
the JPL NEO page is.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Any Good Idea...
11:30 am est
...has likely already been thought of. Earlier, I discussed
an idea of creating a network of bolide-watching cameras. Turns out such a network exists on a small scale in Colorado right
now, run by Chris Peterson and described at his Cloudbait Obersvatory
web page. The camera looks like it can be built for less than $500, though that doesn't include dedicated resources to monitor
it. I hope to have more info on this soon.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
6:02 am est
Mike Griffin, head of NASA, had a bad day
in Congress a few days ago. The Bad Astronomer had some comments
on the event, and some people asked about the utility of the station and the shuttle. I added my $0.02:
was originally conceived because the Soviets had one and we didn't. It took on more importance once Challenger exploded and
most of the planned payloads were taken off the shuttle. Then, it almost got cancelled in the early 90s, until the Russians
were brought on board as partners, making it an instrument of Statesmanship. It's in the wrong orbit (too highly inclined)
to be really useful as a waypoint to build anything. (One possibility is a co-orbiting supply depot for fuel, oxidizer and
water...this could build on the station's utility). Plus, since it was built to try and do many things, it doesn't do any
of them particularly well.
The shuttle has similar problems. It's an amazing machine but it was designed by multiple committees (NASA, DoD) then built
by the lowest bidder. It was never built with operations in mind, though it was sold as an operational vehicle. The best
analogy for this in aircraft would have been if a concerted government effort had been made to build the DC-3 (or even 747!)
after 10 years of aviation.
I decided to post it here before clicking 'submit' on the BA post.
Friday, November 16, 2007
2:31 pm est
In researching around on Near Earth Object (NEO) close approaches, I generated this chart
(big file!), of NEO approaches sorted by relative velocity. If you look at the last entry, you'll gain insight to an amazing
show that Halley's comet will provide Earth in the year 2134. It will approach to within 0.1 AU. Almost worth staying around
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Streetnames: The Next Generation
10:14 pm est
I was looking around some maps today, and came across this
section. Picard Ln, Crusher Ct, Reiker [sic] Dr, Laforge Ln. Now there's an urban planner with a sense of humor!
Monday, November 12, 2007
Speaking of Asteroids
8:30 pm est
. A spacecraft approaching Earth was mistaken to be an asteroid. The provisional name applied to it has been retired.
This shows a bit how one group of really smart people can convince themselves of something in a bit of a vacuum. Luckily,
it got corrected quickly.
Asteroid Names for Everyone!
4:47 pm est
The post title is a little snarky, but it came about because I sat with my daughter today and watched (well, I watched...she
wasn't that interested) Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. It was a 1981 episode, well past my time watching, but it was a nice flashback
to my younger days. Later, I wikipedia'd Mr. Rogers
, and found that there's an asteroid
named after him, 26858 Misterrogers
. I think it's very cool that he has one named after him, but wonder if there are enough asteroids to use up all the names
on the planet? I suppose that the critical decision to make is what diameter defines a name-able asteroid.
Update: According to this page
, the count of asteroids and comets is up to close to 50 million, and going up by about 1 million a month.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Save a Radar, Save the Earth?
4:59 pm est
is a Planetary Society statement asking to keep funding going for the Arecibo Observatory
. When I first read the statement, I thought the wording was overplayed. Arecibo is a powerful radar, and it's done some
amazing things, but I wasn't sure how flexible it was compared to other dishes that could move. The Wikipedia article pointed
out to me some things about how steerable it is, which came as a pleasant surprise. Still, part of my thought process is
that, if people aren't putting enough requests forward to operate the facility, the price needs to go up for each request.
While it would work to put together a 'bail out package' and keep things going, I'm not sure if it's the best way to go forward
for the long haul.
I think it would have been effective in the statement to list upcoming research opportunities, though there are probably some
concerns of early release of study plans. Gee, almost sounds like an industrial process, doesn't it?
End of an Era
8:21 am est
The last Defense Support Program (DSP
) satellite flew into orbit last night. DSP is one of the first satellite programs I worked on, so always like to hear news
about it. I worked in the time of DSP Flight 16
, which flew into orbit on the space shuttle Atlantis
. Full mission status report is here
Saturday, November 10, 2007
10:41 pm est
I broke out the ole 'scope today, trying to get a glance of the comet
that people are talking about. Spent some time trying to find it because I just had no comprehension of how BIG it is in
the sky. Once I changed my thinking, I pointed right at it. Even properly focused, the object looked more like a (big) smudge
on my optics, but it is quite a cool view. The cold temperatures of the night drove me back indoors.
How much Energy does a Congressional Hearing Impart?
9:31 pm est
If you're trying to deflect a Near Earth Object (NEO) from an impact with the planet, you must impart energy to the body,
applied in the correct direction. A Congressional hearing
was held on Thursday, and a lot of opinions were expressed. No energy was imparted to any asteroids, however, so therefore
the chance of an impact hasn't changed.
If funding profiles change, then that could lead to the eventual imparting of some energy.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Army of Bolide Watchers?
8:40 pm est
I've had an idea perking around in my head for a while, but this post
at Bad Astronomy brought it to the surface. In the comments to the blog entry, someone mentioned this site
, where people should report meteor/bolide sightings so they can be correlated with other reports and information can be gathered
My idea is for a network of amateur astronomer/hobbyists to build small bolide monitors in their yards. Using cheap cameras
and fisheye lenses, the network would monitor the sky, and with wireless networking I'm pretty sure it's possible for a any
computer in a house to capture any images that stand out. With some sort of orienting marks on the image, a lot of data would
flow into a center devoted to characterizing different events.
Obviously, it requires more thought, but I think it has some potential. A quick search led to this site
as a source of clear acrylic hemispheres to serve as environmental covers.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Apophis Paper Released
7:24 pm est
is an update on Apophis tracking data. I've just glanced through it, but the authors are pretty confident that future tracking
opportunities will decrease the error bar enough to say that there won't be an impact in 2036.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
No way to turn off a Solar Array?
7:41 pm est
Landsat 5 is still ailing, plus some family stuff has kept me pretty busy, but I couldn't miss this chance.
Space.com has a story
about the soon-to-be-done repair on the space station solar array. This quote is good:
"Once [solar arrays] are
deployed, they start producing power as they're designed to do," Hassmann said of the 110-foot (33.5-meter) sail of solar
cells. "There's nothing we can safe or turn off the array while it's deployed."
Here, we have a case where a more
knowledgable reporter would ask "Can't you just turn the array to face away from the sun?" I realize that the solution is
too simplistic. There may be thermal constraints of not allowing the sun to shine on the other side, or maybe both arrays
need to move together and they can't go without the power of both. Still, it would have been nice to have seen a little more