Out of Space

Southern Cross and Pointers Painted Large Across Christchurch

Duncan Steel Dec 25, 2019

Using knowledge of when the Sentinel-1A radar satellite was due to pass over New Zealand, a team at Christ’s College laid out specially-constructed radar retroreflectors across Hagley Park in Christchurch, in that way painting the Southern Cross and the Pointers in a huge array clearly visible in the derived radar image of the city.  A special – but brief – … Read More

Kiwi exoworlds are named

Duncan Steel Dec 20, 2019

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) this year invited nations to propose names for distant stars selected on the basis of having planets (exoplanets) discovered to be orbiting them. The New Zealand entries, now adopted officially by the IAU, are Karaka for the star, and Kererū for its associated exoplanet.  In a previous blog post I described how New Zealanders had … Read More

Among my favourite asteroids: (2472) Bradman

Duncan Steel Nov 25, 2019

There are many thousands of asteroids with formal names, some humdrum but other more noteworthy (depending on your predilections). One of my favourites, the name of which I was involved in suggesting, is (2472) Bradman, named for the Australian cricketing great. After discussing (2472) Bradman, I also make some comments about (6581) Sobers.  As a minor planet (synonym: asteroid) spotter, … Read More

JFK’s assassination: a bit of physics

Duncan Steel Nov 22, 2019

There are perennial arguments about the circumstances of the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, and in particular whether more than one shooter is required by the evidence (such as the Zapruder film). Those who know little about physics frequently claim that the sharp backwards motion of JFK’s head as the fatal shot hit him is proof that there must … Read More

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Earth’s artificial rings

Duncan Steel Nov 20, 2019

Satellites pass over NZ all the time (literally). Here I focus on the 187 Planet Labs ‘Dove’ Earth-imaging satellites, and I show that one can determine in advance where they will be, enabling scientists on the ground to correlate their environmental and other data collection with opportunities to get imaging from space. That is, we can get ‘space-truth’ (rather than … Read More

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How NZ was put on world maps using a transit of Mercury

Duncan Steel Nov 10, 2019

There will be a transit of Mercury – the planet Mercury will pass across the face of the Sun – taking place at sunrise in New Zealand on Tuesday, 12th November. It was by observing such an event 250 years ago that James Cook and his scientist colleagues were able to determine the longitude of NZ, and so put these … Read More

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India a major player in Earth observation satellites

Duncan Steel Oct 15, 2019

While many imagine that countries like the USA and Europe dominate space activities, in fact India is now a major player on this stage. It launches satellites for its own purposes and also commercially, and has constellations orbiting our planet and returning data of vital importance to that nation in many ways.  Yesterday I was really pleased to give a … Read More

Google Doodle for Bill Robinson’s birthday

Duncan Steel Oct 02, 2019

The Google Doodle today (at least in New Zealand and Australia) commemorates the birth in 1938 of Bill Robinson, the kiwi scientist who invented the rubber ‘shock absorbers’ that provide some seismic insulation for large buildings, notably under Te Papa in Wellington.  Sometimes a Google Doodle (the cartoon seen when one opens the Google search page) leaves one … Read More

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