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Posts Tagged ‘Spacecraft

“Outer space is so empty”*…


At the furthest-most reaches of the observable universe lies one of the most enigmatic mysteries of modern cosmology: the cosmic microwave background (CMB) Cold Spot.

Discovered in 2004, this strange feature etched into the primordial echo of the Big Bang has been the focus of many hypotheses — could it be the presence of another universe? Or is it just instrumental error? Now, astronomers may have acquired strong evidence as to the Cold Spot’s origin and, perhaps unsurprisingly, no multiverse hypothesis is required. But it’s not instrumental error either…

The Cold Spot area resides in the constellation Eridanus in the southern galactic hemisphere. The insets show the environment of this anomalous patch of the sky as mapped using PS1 and WISE data and as observed in the cosmic microwave background temperature data taken by the Planck satellite. The angular diameter of the vast supervoid aligned with the Cold Spot, which exceeds 30 degrees, is marked by the white circles.


More at “Mysterious ‘Cold Spot’: Fingerprint of Largest Structure in the Universe?

* Theodore Sturgeon


As we boldly go, we might recall that it was on this date in 1962 that NASA launched the Ranger 4, the first U.S. spacecraft to reach another celestial body.  Ranger 4 was designed to transmit pictures to Earth and to test the radar-reflectivity of the lunar surface during a period of 10 minutes of flight prior to crashing upon the Moon, “rough-landing” a seismometer capsule as it did.  In the event, an onboard computer glitch caused failure of the solar panels and navigation systems; as a result the spacecraft crashed on the far side of the Moon three days after it’s launch without returning any scientific data.  Still, the “landing” was a first.


 Happy Shakespeare’s Birthday!


Written by LW

April 23, 2015 at 1:01 am

They Came from Outer Space!…

source:  NASA, via IEEE Spectrum

For years, scientists have known that satellites and astronauts are vulnerable to “space weather,”  more specifically to  geo-magnetic storms that generate “killer electrons” powerful enough to penetrate shielding, damage spacecraft, and injure spacemen.  But no one has been able to explain just how these nefarious particles are produced… so there’s been no trustworthy ability to predict– and avoid– them.

Now, as IEEE Spectrum and the European Space Agency report, scientists affiliated Los Alamos National Labs and a separate team at the ESA have begun to explain the phenomenon.   The details are referenced in the cited reports; here suffice it to say that the electrons (originating in the Van Allen Belt) are accelerated– to velocities approaching the speed of light– by a combination of Very Low Frequency and (higher amplitude) Ultra Low Frequency electromagnetic waves, themselves excited by the impact of solar storms on the earth’s protective electromagnetic bubble.

And not a moment too soon:  As Philippe Escoubet, an ESA scientist remarks, “These new findings help us to improve the models predicting the radiation environment in which satellites and astronauts operate. With solar activity now ramping up, we expect more of these shocks to impact our magnetosphere over the months and years to come.”

As we re-fit our tin foil helmets, we might recall that it was on this date in 1845 that Stephen Perry patented the rubber band. The milk of the rubber tree had been long used by folks who lived where the trees were native to make shoes, clothes, and “bottles”– which were brought back to England by returning sailors.  In 1820, Thomas Hancock sliced up one of the bottles to create elastic garters and “belts.”   Perry, who owned a rubber manufacturing company was sufficiently taken with Hancock’s idea to file a patent on the rubber band– the first of which were made from vulcanized rubber.  (They are now commonly made of a combination of rubber and latex.)

rubber bands

(It was also on this date in 1950 that Glenn Seaborg and a team of colleagues at UC Berkeley announced a new element, number 98– Californium– a radioactive element the isotopes of which have important medical and industrial uses, as they are powerful point sources of neutrons.)

As it happens, some of my best friends are crazy…

From BibliOdyssey:

Karl Hans Janke (1909-1988) graduated from high school and attended a technical college for a couple of years and studied dentistry although he didn’t complete the course. He was drafted into the German army in 1940 where he was hospitalised on a number of occasions because of behavioural problems and was eventually discharged from the service on medical grounds in 1943.

By the late 1940s Janke was found to be malnourished and exhibiting increasingly eccentric behaviour and, after a short prison sentence and hospital assessment, he was committed to a psychiatric institution in Wermsdorf, Saxony in 1950 with a diagnosis of chronic paranoid schizophrenia. He remained at this facility for the rest of his life.

The institutional staff either encouraged or tolerated the passion Janke showed for sketching technical designs: he had his own “office” in the hospital in which he produced four thousand drawings and constructed hundreds of models of his “inventions”. Apparently the boxes containing his works were stowed away at the hospital and forgotten after his death and weren’t rediscovered until 2000 when the imaginative artistry and sheer enormity of his output was finally recognised.

Janke was, in his own mind at least, a serious engineer, intent on helping mankind by devising all manner of rocket ship (especially), space vehicle, ferry, bike, propulsion mechanism and associated transport system. His drawings range from simple prototype sketches to incredibly detailed schematics reminiscent of technical manual designs. He was an energetic correspondent with the patent office and various technological and aerospace type agencies and departments, endeavouring – without much luck – to share his inventions with his scientific “peers”. Fearing theft of his intellectual property however, Janke was also assiduous in dating and signing his works with an accompanying statement declaring himself as the author and originator of each idea depicted.

Vacuum Freighter

See a selection of Janke’s remarkable drawings at BibliOdyssey; browse over 3,500 of his drawings at the archive at Deutsche Fotothek.

As we prepare to leave this world, we might celebrate the anniversary of the first full-length film based on a television series:  Rescue from Gilligan’s Island.  (Given how far the genre has come– witness Jackass 2, The Dukes of Hazzard, and on a loftier note, Star Trek— it’s hard to believe that this was only 31 years ago, in 1978.)

source: Clown-Ministry

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