Out of Space

JFK’s assassination: a bit of physics

Duncan Steel Nov 22, 2019

[avatar user=”duncansteel” size=”thumbnail” align=”right” /] 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 … Read More

Earth’s artificial rings

Duncan Steel Nov 20, 2019

[avatar user=”duncansteel” size=”thumbnail” align=”right” /] 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 … Read More

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

Duncan Steel Nov 10, 2019

[avatar user=”duncansteel” size=”thumbnail” align=”right” /] 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 … Read More

India a major player in Earth observation satellites

Duncan Steel Oct 15, 2019

[avatar user=”duncansteel” size=”thumbnail” align=”right” /] 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 … Read More

Night lights of NZ from orbit

Duncan Steel Oct 10, 2019

[avatar user=”duncansteel” size=”thumbnail” align=”right” /] New Zealand has prided itself for decades with regard to its lack of pollution, and all will be aware that the ‘100% Pure New Zealand‘ meme is under threat through land, water and air pollution of various causes. There is another type of contamination that the country also faces: light pollution. Astronomers are concerned … Read More

Google Doodle for Bill Robinson’s birthday

Duncan Steel Oct 02, 2019

[avatar user=”duncansteel” size=”thumbnail” align=”right” /] 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 … Read More

Crowded on the Space Station

Duncan Steel Oct 01, 2019

[avatar user=”duncansteel” size=”thumbnail” align=”right” /] Currently there are nine astronauts in orbit, passing a bit more than 400 km above our heads several times a day. If you would like to watch the Space Station in New Zealand’s skies, there are several opportunities this next week, so long as you don’t mind getting up reasonably early, before sunrise.  Just at … Read More

All Blacks take a bath in Beppu

Duncan Steel Sep 28, 2019

[avatar user=”duncansteel” size=”thumbnail” align=”right” /] The All Blacks are currently resting up in the Japanese spa town of Beppu, awaiting their next game. Like Rotorua and several other spa towns spread around the globe, Beppu has an impact crater on asteroid (951) Gaspra named for it.  Perusing the intellectual pages (i.e. the sports section) in The Press this morning whilst … Read More

Interstellar comet update

Duncan Steel Sep 19, 2019

[avatar user=”duncansteel” size=”thumbnail” align=”right” /] The discovery of a true interstellar comet – a comet passing through the solar system having arrived, presumably, after having been thrown out of some other planetary system orbiting another star – re-opens a long-debated question in science: is life unique to Earth, or is it common in the galaxy? The panspermia hypothesis holds that … Read More

New interstellar comet discovered

Duncan Steel Sep 13, 2019

[avatar user=”duncansteel” size=”thumbnail” align=”right” /] Astronomers have searched over many decades for comets that have come from interstellar space, perhaps from a planetary system orbiting a nearby star in the Milky Way. A blank was drawn in this quest for a long, long time… and now, similarly to London buses, two have come along almost at once. The diagram at … Read More