Out of Space

A new crater on the Moon

Duncan Steel May 21, 2019

The scar on the lunar surface produced when the Israeli space probe ‘Beresheet’ slammed into the Moon on April 11 has just been spotted using an orbiting NASA satellite.  Three nations have so far landed spacecraft on the Moon: the USA, the Soviet Union/Russia, and China. A fourth nation, Israel, has attempted to join this club, but its probe (named Beresheet) … Read More

Talking satellites and space in Washington

Duncan Steel May 16, 2019

The annual beanfeast for the US satellite industry — featuring major participation from European nations and companies in particular — is the SATELLITE congress held at the Washington Convention Center, a few blocks from the White House. It was an amazing event to attend, compared to the sort of low-key conferences we have in New Zealand.  Now I’m back in … Read More

Imagine an asteroid impact due in 2027: How would you tackle it?  

Duncan Steel May 09, 2019

It’s now scientifically possible to predict potential asteroid impacts years in advance. But knowing that such a calamitous event is going to occur, due to the clockwork of the heavens, presents its own problems. Can we divert it, and if so, how? Similarly, if the impact is inevitable, can we model what is going to happen far ahead of time, … Read More

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Defending the planet from asteroids

Duncan Steel May 02, 2019

Astronauts, astronomers, planetary scientists, space researchers and aerospace engineers are meeting near Washington DC to discuss how we might deal with any asteroid found to be heading for a cataclysmic collision with Earth, perhaps causing a global catastrophe. That is, if it was actually found before it caught us unawares.  As I type this I am sat in a large, … Read More

Orbit of the newly-launched R3D2 satellite

Duncan Steel Apr 02, 2019

Last Friday Rocket Lab successfully launched another satellite from the Mahia Peninsula. In this post I describe the satellite’s orbital path, and how it will slowly vary in time over the next week.  Rocket Lab successfully launched another satellite into orbit from the Mahia Peninsula soon after midday last Friday (March 29th), a wonderful achievement. Well done to … Read More

The NZ Aerospace Challenge

Duncan Steel Mar 31, 2019

An open competition soon to start will provide a wonderful opportunity for smart people of any age in New Zealand to take on the challenge of how we might assess water and soil pollution using satellite and drone data. What they might choose to do in attacking such environmental problems is limited only by their imaginations, and technical capabilities. All … Read More

Does Earth have a natural prime meridian?

Duncan Steel Mar 20, 2019

We are generally habituated to using the Greenwich meridian as the global standard for mapping and time-keeping, despite it being only 135 years since its adoption. As I show here, if the Catholic Church had adopted in 1582 a more-precise calendar in terms of year length then a natural prime meridian results, in a location that might appear surprising. Read More

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On the Shoulders of Giants?

Duncan Steel Mar 16, 2019

Isaac Newton is often thought to be the inventor of the apparently self-deprecating phrase ‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’, but he was not: actually it had been in use for over 500 years before he repeated it in 1675. Of more significance is that Newton wrote it in a letter to … Read More

New Zealand from Space

Duncan Steel Mar 11, 2019

The European Space Agency’s current Earth observation image of the week features New Zealand in all its glory. Let us take it as read that NZ is a beautiful, breathtaking country. Myriad artistic renditions and simple tourist snaps bear witness to that, but it is also truly an amazing sight when seen from high above, by satellites in orbit. Read More

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