Category Archives: Astronomy

I have just one piece of advice: Don’t!

NASA Goddard: NASA’s Guide To Black Hole Safety. (YouTube, 2:39min) “Have you ever thought about visiting a black hole? We sure hope not. However, if you’re absolutely convinced that a black hole is your ideal vacation spot, watch this video before you blast off to learn more about them and (more importantly) how to stay safe.”

Link via Astronomy Picture of the Day.

USA 224

NPR: Amateurs Identify U.S. Spy Satellite Behind President Trump’s Tweet.

“Amateur satellite trackers say they believe an image tweeted by President Trump on Friday came from one of America’s most advanced spy satellites.

The image almost certainly came from a satellite known as USA 224, according to Marco Langbroek, a satellite-tracker based in the Netherlands. The satellite was launched by the National Reconnaissance Office in 2011. Almost everything about it remains highly classified, but Langbroek says that based on its size and orbit, most observers believe USA 224 is one of America’s multibillion-dollar KH-11 reconnaissance satellites.
[…]
Melissa Hanham, a satellite imagery expert and deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network in Vienna, Austria […] says she is amazed a satellite can provide such clear imagery. Spy satellites must peer down through Earth’s atmosphere, which is a bit like trying to look at objects in the bottom of a swimming pool. They also must snap their pictures while whizzing across the sky. Both effects can blur the fine details in images.

“I’m now scratching my head and curious about how they account for the effects of the atmosphere and motion of the objects,” she says.

And she says she thinks she’s not alone. Others will be trying to use the image to learn more about how USA 224 works. “I imagine adversaries are going to take a look at this image and reverse-engineer it to figure out how the sensor itself works and what kind of post-production techniques they’re using,” she says.

Hanham questions whether Trump’s tweet zinging the Iranians was worth the information this image provides to other nations, but she adds: “It’s his decision as the president.””

Dr. h. c. AstroAlex

KIT: Ein Blick ins All: Alexander Gerst begeistert am KIT. (YouTube, 1:53h)

“Wie sieht ein Gewitter über den Wolken aus, wie verändert sich der Körper in der Schwerelosigkeit und was kann Forschung an Bord der ISS zur Behandlung irdischer Krankheiten beitragen? Antworten auf Fragen wie diese fand ESA-Astronaut Alexander Gerst bei den beiden Missionen, die ihn 2014 und 2018 auf die Internationale Raumstation ISS führten. Seine wissenschaftlichen Wurzeln liegen auch in Karlsruhe: 2003 erhielt er sein Diplom in Geophysik an der Universität Karlsruhe, dem heutigen Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT). Die KIT-Fakultäten für Physik und für Bauingenieur-, Geo- und Umweltwissenschaften verliehen ihm nun die Ehrendoktorwürde. Die feierliche Übergabe der Urkunde und ein Vortrag im vollbesetzten Audimax führten den deutschen ESA-Astronauten am 12. Juli 2019 wieder an seine frühere Universität.”

13 Minutes to the Moon

BBC: 13 Minutes To The Moon: new BBC Podcast tells the story of the people behind the Apollo 11 moon landing.

“On 13 May 2019, the BBC will be launching 13 Minutes To The Moon, a 12-part series covering the Apollo programme through the final dramatic 13-minute descent of the Apollo 11 mission, when everything came close to going badly wrong. Communication was breaking down, technology was failing and fuel was running out.
[…]
The final episode will be recorded live at Houston’s Rice University, where U.S. President John F. Kennedy made his speech in 1962, famously announcing his ambition to take humankind to the moon. It will be released on the exact 50th anniversary of the moon landing, 20 July 2019.”

I’ve only found this today, but the first two episodes as well as some trailers are already available for download.