Out of Space

Defending the planet from asteroids

Duncan Steel May 02, 2019

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

Orbit of the newly-launched R3D2 satellite

Duncan Steel Apr 02, 2019

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

The NZ Aerospace Challenge

Duncan Steel Mar 31, 2019

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

Happy New Year (and a missed Easter)

Duncan Steel Mar 25, 2019

[avatar user=”duncansteel” size=”thumbnail” align=”right” /] As I write it is March 25th, which was the date of New Year in Great Britain and its colonies until 1752. Indeed, throughout history it was a common date for the start of the civil year in a wide range of European states and principalities, being the traditional date of the vernal … Read More

Does Earth have a natural prime meridian?

Duncan Steel Mar 20, 2019

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

On the Shoulders of Giants?

Duncan Steel Mar 16, 2019

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

New Zealand from Space

Duncan Steel Mar 11, 2019

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

Space Station and docked Dragon capsule visible throughout NZ

Duncan Steel Mar 04, 2019

[avatar user=”duncansteel” size=”thumbnail” align=”right” /] As I write, the Dragon capsule – a spacecraft intended to loft US astronauts into orbit – has been docked with the Space Station for almost 18 hours on its initial test flight. It happens that you will be able to see the station plus capsule passing over New Zealand each evening for the next … Read More

The Visibility of the Space Station

Duncan Steel Feb 22, 2019

[avatar user=”duncansteel” size=”thumbnail” align=”right” /] The International Space Station (and many other satellites) can easily be viewed passing overhead using the naked eye, so long as you know when to look, and where. But why  can we see it, and how does it return so often?  In a blog post a few days ago I presented tables of times when … Read More

Times to Spot the Space Station

Duncan Steel Feb 19, 2019

[avatar user=”duncansteel” size=”thumbnail” align=”right” /] It’s easy to see the International Space Station passing overhead: you just need to know when and where to look. Oh, and a clear sky. The International Space Station (ISS) regularly passes across New Zealand, a little more than 400 km above our heads – rather less than the distance between Auckland and … Read More