Tag: satellites

Asteroid Will Make Close Pass by Earth on Friday

By Breanna Draxler | February 12, 2013 9:24 am

This image shows a close-up view of Eros, an asteroid with an orbit that takes it somewhat close to Earth, though not nearly as close as 2012 DA14 will be on Friday. Image courtesy of NASA/JHUAPL

On Friday, February 15, astronomers will get an unusually good look at a near-Earth asteroid called 2012 DA14. It will be the first time a known object of this size will come this close to Earth—a mere 8 percent the distance between us and our moon.

The asteroid, which measures 150 feet across, was first spotted by astronomers when it zoomed by Earth this time last year. This asteroid’s fly-bys occur about once a year since its orbit around the sun is very similar to our own.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics & Math, Space, Top Posts

Midnight Showing: Stunning and Scientifically Vital Satellite Views of Earth at Night

By Breanna Draxler | December 7, 2012 12:42 pm

For a clear and cloudless image, this compilation required shots from 312 different orbits taken in April and October of this year.

Yesterday NASA released images from its most recently launched Earth-orbiting satellite, the Suomi NPP. The images it captures demonstrate both the beauty and the benefit that can be gleaned from visions of Earth at night.

The Suomi NPP satellite is significantly more light sensitive than its predecessors. So sensitive, in fact, it can detect the light from a single ship at sea. To put that in numbers: Suomi’s spatial resolution is six times better than the devices that came before it, and the lighting levels show up with 250 times better resolution. And it also has an infrared sensor, which lets it track weather patterns even at night.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Space, Technology, Top Posts

Climate Change May Speed Up Satellites

By Breanna Draxler | November 15, 2012 12:30 pm

NASA satellite
NASA’s first geosynchronous satellite.

The build-up of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere is predicted to have a number of effects here on Earth: record high temperatures, unprecedented droughts, and stronger than normal storms. But the effects may also extend to what’s far, far above us. Hydrogeologist Scott K. Johnson writes at Ars Technica that the “non-intuitive” consequences of climate change will be significant, including, potentially, screwing with the paths of satellites circling the Earth. Here’s how:

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Space

North Korea's Third Satellite Launch Has Failed. This Time, It Admits It.

By Veronique Greenwood | April 13, 2012 12:18 pm

satellite
The North Korean satellite command center, during an open
house for foreign journalists

North Korea has drawn international ire in the last few months with its plan to launch a satellite—called Bright Shining Star—that the United States and its allies perceived as a veiled attempt to test potential long-range weapons. The US even canceled food relief worth about $200 million dollars to feed the country’s starving population, when the government announced that the launch would go forward as part of the festivities surrounding new leader Kim Jong-un’s rise to power.

The launch attempt today, however, failed, with the satellite breaking up and falling into the Yellow Sea. The satellite, which South Korean estimates say cost the country $450 million to build, reached barely a third of the height required to make orbit.

This does not bode well for the scientists involved in the project, North Korea expert Markus Noland noted on his blog (via NYT):

“The North Koreans have managed in a single stroke to not only defy the U.N. Security Council, the United States and even their patron China, but also demonstrate ineptitude,” Mr. Noland said. “Some of the scientists and engineers associated with the launch are likely facing death or the gulag as scapegoats for this embarrassment.”

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space

Japan Disaster Was Two Tsunamis Rolled into One

By Valerie Ross | December 7, 2011 4:17 pm


Satellite radar data showed two wave fronts combining into a doubly tall tsunami off the coast of Japan on March 11.

The tsunami that spawned by the 9.0 earthquake off Japan this March was a disaster of massive proportions, reaching heights of over 130 feet in some areas and traveling up to six miles inland in others. Scientists at NASA and Ohio State University have now found another factor, beyond the sheer strength of the quake, that made the tsunami so ferocious: It started out as two separate walls of waves that combined to form one taller, more powerful “merging tsunami.”

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment

City Lights Reveals Economic Activity—But Don't Give Up Ledgers Just Yet

By Veronique Greenwood | May 17, 2011 12:41 pm

earthNot so helpful after all.

What’s the News: City lights are more than a pretty sight from the air—they’re also a good way to tell how a country’s economy is doing, some economists say. Over the past decade, deducing a country’s gross domestic product from how much it glows in nighttime satellite images, a factor called luminosity, has become quite the econ fad. But as clever as it sounds, luminosity isn’t as helpful as you’d think, a new study says. Only in countries that are such a disaster that gathering reliable statistics is impossible is the glow a better approximation of GDP than you’d get with traditional measures.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics & Math, Technology

Postage-Stamp Satellites Hitch a Ride on the Space Station

By Veronique Greenwood | April 29, 2011 5:15 am

chip dime
The chip at the core of the Sprite
microsatellite is smaller than a dime.

What’s the News: Imagine a cloud of tiny satellites, each no larger than a postage stamp, sailing like dust on solar winds through a planet’s atmosphere and sending radio signals home, with no need for fuel. When a small patch of real estate opened up on an International Space Station experiment, researchers jumped at the chance to test the durability of such tiny “satellites on a chip,” which they hope to eventually deploy in atmospheres like Saturn’s, and three of the miniature objects are being delivered to the Space Station by Endeavor on its final flight (which was just scrubbed for today). They will allow researchers to see how well such microsatellites hold up to radiation and other rigors of space.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space, Technology

Astronomers Say: Spew 20 Tons of Dust Into Orbit to Clear the Junk

By Patrick Morgan | April 12, 2011 5:12 pm

What’s the News: The many bits of space junk orbiting Earth, from foil scraps to lens caps to chunks of frozen urine, can damage satellites and spacecraft, which is why researchers have long sought methods to remove debris from orbit. Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory have proposed a new way of taking out the trash (in two senses): They want to pump 20 tons of tungsten dust into Earth’s orbit; this dust would exert drag on the junk’s orbit, slowing it down and gradually lowering it until Earth’s atmosphere can burn it up. This bid to protect Earth’s 900 active satellites is controversial because the dust could potentially harm solar panels on satellites and obstruct astronomical measurements, but it’s a handy fix because it doesn’t require ambitious new technology.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space

Solar Sail Spacecraft, Feared Defunct, Finally Goes Into Action

By Eliza Strickland | January 24, 2011 10:29 am

Good news, solar sail enthusiasts: the NASA experimental spacecraft that was feared to be a dud sprang into life last week.

NanoSail-D was launched aboard a small satellite in December; once the satellite was in orbit the engineers back on Earth ordered the cargo door opened, and waited for NanoSail-D to pop out as planned. But the solar sail craft remained stubbornly inside the cargo bay. As weeks passed with no action, NASA’s hopes for the craft sunk.

But last Wednesday, NASA announced that NanoSail-D had spontaneously emerged.

“We knew that the door opened and it was possible that NanoSail-D could eject on its own,” Mark Boudreaux, FASTSAT project manager at the Marshall Center, said in a press release. “What a pleasant surprise this morning when our flight operations team confirmed that NanoSail-D is now a free flyer.” [CNN]

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics & Math, Space

Spacecraft AWOL: Where Is NASA's New Solar Sail?

By Andrew Moseman | December 14, 2010 12:21 pm

NASAnanosailNanoSail-D, phone home.

On December 6, NASA launched its Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite (FASTSAT), which, among other cargo, carried the test craft NanoSail-D. No bigger than a breadbox, NanoSail-D was supposed to blast free from FASTSAT and spend three days floating free before spreading a 100-square-foot solar sail—what would be NASA’s first successful solar sail project. But while all signs initially indicated the 8-pound box succeeded in ejecting from the satellite, now NASA is not so sure. The agency is having trouble communicating with NanoSail-D, and its whereabouts are unknown.

“We have not been able to locate or make contact with NanoSail-D,” says Kim Newton of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The sail was scheduled to unfurl on 9 December, but NASA reports that the deployment of the sail cannot be confirmed, and it is not clear whether the sail was successfully ejected into space. [New Scientist]

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space
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