Tag: Australia

Followup: Falcon 9 spiral light video

By Phil Plait | June 5, 2010 6:08 pm

Just thought y’all would like this video of the spiral over Australia caused by the Falcon 9 second stage booster. This really shows you the motion of the spin, as well as the bulk motion of the object across the sky; it moves just as you’d expect something in orbit to move. Shocking, I know.

Apparently, a lot of people saw it; Aussies must be early risers. Man, I’d love to see something like this. So cool.

Tip o’ the tin foil beanie to The Plane Talking blog.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Space
MORE ABOUT: Australia, Falcon 9, SpaceX, UFO

Oh, those Falcon UFOs!

By Phil Plait | June 5, 2010 10:03 am

Yesterday, a lot of Australians reported seeing a bizarre UFO.

Just before 6:00 a.m. local time, numerous reports came in about a spiral of light in the sky with a bright central spot. The light was actually spinning around, like a pinwheel! One site has pretty cool video of it, and pictures are turning up on the web as well.


Sound familiar? Yeah, it should: these reports are almost exactly like a spiral shaped light seen over Norway last year. The Norway sighting — a picture of it is below, on the right — was positively identified as a Russian missile, so of course as soon as I heard of this new Aussie sighting the first thing I thought of was that it was a rocket booster.

norway_spiralSo I leaned over my keyboard and was about to Google "rocket launch schedule" or something similar, when I suddenly stopped. I smiled, leaned back, and almost literally facepalmed myself. Gee, I thought to myself, what rocket would’ve launched yesterday morning?

Duh: the SpaceX Falcon 9! The private company successfully held its first test launch of the big rocket, blasting off from its Florida pad at 18:45 UT Friday — which is 04:45 Sydney, Australia time.

I don’t have ground tracks yet (maps of the path of the rocket over the Earth’s surface) Here’s the Falcon 9 ground track — the path of the rocket over the Earth’s surface — provided by jetforme (based on orbital parameters):


Note how the path goes right over eastern Australia! The timing is perfect, too: about an hour later, the second stage would’ve been halfway around the world, matching the position and time of the UFO sightings.

The spiral pattern seen in Norway is known to be from gas leaking out of the booster. As the booster spins and the gas shoots out, it makes a water-sprinkler spiral pattern in the sky. As it happens, the second stage of the Falcon 9 was rotating; this was not supposed to happen and the SpaceX engineers are looking into it (it didn’t affect the launch adversely; the payload achieved orbit).

So the timing was right, the booster was spinning, and we know that spirals like this are an outcome of rocket launches.

Of course, this isn’t enough for some UFO believers. ABC in Australia had this from Doug Moffett of the UFO Research NSW:
Read More

MORE ABOUT: Australia, Falcon 9, SpaceX, UFO

Hey, Australia elects antiscience believers, too!

By Phil Plait | May 4, 2010 9:29 am

Wow. Just wow. You need to watch this to — ahem! — believe it. This guy, Steven Fielding, an Australian Parliamentarian, dodges, ducks, dips, dives and dodges so well he could be an American politician!

Did you notice anything about what he said? Like, how he never answered the actual question? I do have to wonder about his exact reasons for dodging Richard Dawkins’ questions about the age of the Earth. It’s almost as if he’s embarrassed by his own beliefs, knowing how old-fashioned, provincial, and downright wrong they must sound.

Tip o’ the Mintie to Michael Rosch.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Religion, Science, Skepticism

Titanic iceberg headed for Australia

By Phil Plait | December 16, 2009 3:23 pm

Holy yikes: an iceberg 25 kilometers across that broke off of Antarctica in 2000 has made a break for it and is headed toward Australia! Check this out:


Whoa. The berg has been monitored from space by NASA since November. Usually, they circulate around Antarctica due to currents there but this one managed to escape, and is drifting northeast toward Australia’s south-southwest coast. Since it broke off the main ice mass it shrank from 140 square kilometers (and may I say HOLY CRAP 140 SQUARE KILOMETERS! That’s 54 square miles!) down to 115 square km.

If you’re not sure how big that is, then think on this: Manhattan is 88 sq km. It would fit comfortably inside that iceberg.

NASA is monitoring this berg using the Terra and Aqua satellites designed for just this purpose. A shipping warning has been issued — though it may be hard to miss a chunk of ice 20 freaking kilometers across, the berg itself is calving, and smaller shards could be a hazard to ships in the area.

That is a whole lot of ice. I can’t help thinking: it’s actually bigger than the Kuiper Belt Object spotted by Hubble which I wrote about earlier. And it’s a whole lot closer. Wow.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Miscellaneous
MORE ABOUT: Australia, iceberg

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