Space

200 Grams

200 Grams

Sep 02 2009 | 0 comment(s)

A TubeSat picosatellite lifts 200 grams of payload. That's about 7 ounces. Looked at one way, that's less than half a can of soda. But it's enough to lift an entire Nintendo DS game handheld into orbit. 200 grams can be a lot of electronics.

When I committed to this project, I didn't yet have the specific electronics in mind. I've built mini guitar amps and guitar sound processors that come in well under 7 ounces. I assumed I could kit-bash stuff and create my own schematics for the final assembly. What I didn't expect was that there would be a company that already builds everything I need.
A new image of nearby galaxy NGC 4945 shows that it looks a lot like our own Milky Way.

NGC 4945 seems to be a spiral galaxy with swirling, luminous arms and a bar-shaped central region, though NGC 4945 has a brighter center that likely harbors a supermassive black hole which is devouring reams of matter and blasting energy out into space.
A giant galaxy, so distant that it is seen as it was 12.8 billion years ago, is as large as the Milky Way and contains a supermassive black hole with at least a billion times as much matter as our Sun.

The discovery, in a paper in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society by University of Hawaii astronomer Dr. Tomotsugu Goto and colleagues, lays claim to the most distant supermassive black hole ever found.
This here, "The Sky By Day", is my science writing column.  I write about current news and cultural issues in space and computer science.  Very simple, very journalistic:

    See Alex write.  Write, Alex, write!

I have started a new project, to launch a satellite into space.  It's called Project Calliope, and myself and my team will write about it here at SB here in the new column, Satellite Diaries:

  See Alex do science.  Sciencify, Alex, sciencify!
Dear Diary,

It was a secret for a while, but I'm going to launch my own satellite! It's going to make music from space. Curious?




It is dangerous to write about neat things. That makes you want to do them yourself. After writing about satellites, I became inspired to build one myself. And it'll be a first-- a musical satellite. A satellite whose sole purpose is to make music until it dies-- music from science.
I recently watched a show about alien planets orbiting distant stars. It emphasized the differences between these planets and Earth – too hot, too cold, iron rain, noxious gas – places where humans couldn’t live, but maybe some organisms might.

What I, and everyone else, would like to find is a planet that is like Earth. Some planet orbiting an Earth-like star in the Goldilocks zone – not too hot, not too cold, but just right. A planet with water, and with a breathable atmosphere.
People sometimes think the space between stars is 'empty' but that's not the case.   That area is filled with patches of low-density gas and when a relatively dense clump of gas gets near a star, the resulting flow produces a drag force on any orbiting dust particles. The force only affects the smallest particles -- those about one micrometer across, or about the size of particles in smoke. 

This explains the otherwise difficult to understand shapes of those dust-filled disks, according to a team led by John Debes at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
This video, apparently slated to be the first in a series, provides an accessible and visually compelling entry level discussion of the big bang.  Hard to imagine that this was done for approximately one infinitieth of the budget of Avatar.
A team of researchers say long held beliefs about how stars are formed have been just a myth, and they say this astronomy myth got busted using a set of galaxies found with CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope.

When interstellar gas collapses to form stars, the stars range from massive to minute.  Since the 1950s many astronomers have believed that in a family of new-born stars the ratio of massive stars to lighter ones was always about the same — for every star 20 times more massive than the Sun or larger, you'd get 500 stars the mass of the Sun or less.
What do you do with a petabyte of data?

The question came up during a lunch today with two NASA computing people, on in IT and the other in supercomputing.  Modern satellites are returning petabytes of data, and there are many satellites.  This is far more than any human can expect to personally look at, and in fact more than they can fit into their local machine.  How do we make these huge amounts of data useful?

We can't ship it to the user's desktop-- there's no room, it'd take forever, and the user doesn't have tools that can browse massive data sets.