|| Tech || Culture || Activities || Resources || Links || Weblogs || Features ||
Site Info


The Space Gazette

Space for Everyone      -     July 16, 2002     -         Vol. 2 No.14

The Spacefaring Web 2.10:
Saluting the Flag of Convenience

John Carter McKnight

Space-colony independence movements, usually modeled upon the American Revolution, are a hoary staple of science fiction. While a sci-fi Fourth of July may be valuable as entertainment and Aesopian analogy, the concept doesn’t hold up well as a likely outcome of foreseeable economic, political and cultural inputs. Particularly in the case of Earth-orbital (for shorthand purposes, L5) colonies, glorious democratic uprisings against tyranny, leading to a birth of national-identity consciousness and grudging acceptance into the family of nations, will probably remain a cheery fantasy. Rather more likely is a resort by colony owners and managers to that perversion of national sovereignty, the flag of convenience.


Extrasolar Planets, Simulations, Offline Software

ExtraSolar Dreaming
Imagining other star systems...

Cancri System
A planet similar in size and orbit to Jupiter was
recently found in the 55 Cancri System.
NASA JPL Planetquest

Hardly a week goes by now without the announcement of yet another planet found orbiting a star in our vicinity (out to 50 light years or so).

By simulataneously detecting the Doppler shifts in thousands of spectral lines as a planet tugs on a star during its course around the star, the mass and orbit of the planet can be inferred.

Initially, this technique could only detect very heavy planets, equivalent to mulitple Jupiter masses, in orbits very close to the star. Gradually, the sensitivity of the technique has improved and now can detect planets with mases similar to the gas giants - Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune & Uranus - around our Sun.

Recently, two separate groups found star systems that each had a planet with a mass similar to that of Jupiter and also in a similar orbit:

This raises the possibility that the systems also have a similar distribution of planets as our systems - i.e. gas giants in the outer orbits, rocky small planets on orbits close to the star.

Over the coming years the spectral Doppler techniques will continue to improve but probably not enough to detect small earth sized bodies. Instead, high resolution large telescopes in space will directly observe small inner orbit rocky planets like Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury.

See the Extrasolar Planets section for a list of sites and articles about planets discovered in nearby star systems.

The discovery of star systems similar to our solar system brings up the possibility that they might also have planets with life on them. It will be a long time, though, before we have the capabilities to directly observe evidence of, say, green vegetation on an earth sized planet.

In the meantime, it is still exciting to find systems relatively close by that are so similar to our own and to begin to imagine what the planets are like. There are number of private sites opening up that are dedicated to our newly found neighbors. For example,

Simulations of such systems are fun to explore and practical to use if you are, say, writing a science fiction story and want to base it on a realistic star system. The use of 3-D modelling and texture mappings allows the computer based planet designer to portray these worlds in wonderfully imaginative and exotic ways.

See also the following sites

  Simulations, Offline Software

Finding Space in Open Source

The open source software movement has become famous with the success of the Linux operating system and the widespread use of many important application programs. The number of such programs continues to expand rapidly and now includes a broad selection of open source space and astronomy related programs. .

Some examples of Space/Astronomy programs at SourceForge.net include:

  • SpaceGear.Org is a set of programs and standards "to promote large scale space flight simulation across the internet."
  • Celestia is a "real-time 3D space simulation which lets you travel through our solar system and to over 100,000 stars in our neighborhood."
  • Mars Simulation Project is an open source Java project to create a simulation of future human settlement on the planet Mars.

Other Space News and Links of Interest

Satellite Anniversary: With today's routine video and radio broadcasts from just about anywhere in the world, it can be difficult to realize just how amazing it was to Americans in 1962 to view live TV images from Europe for the first time.

The launch of the first commercial broadcast satellite Telstar on July 11, 1962 brought overseas events directly into living rooms across the country. Soon the label "Live by Satellite" became common on broadcasts of sporting events and news reports from Europe and eventually from other areas of the world as more satellites were placed in orbit.

The satellite even inspired a hit song. The music section discusses Joe Meek's Telstar, which was recorded by the rock group The Tornados and became the first British song to reach number one in the US (about a year before the Beatles began the British invasion of American rock'n'roll.) The guitar group The Ventures later got their own hit from it.

The 40th anniversary of the Telstar launch is being noted by several articles and web pages:

Amateur Astronomers Discover Comets and Supernova: As discussed in the Astronomy section, amateurs frequently make significant contributions to the field. These articles discuss the work of amateurs in spotting new comets and supernova:

Rocket Guy Responds - When Brian Walker, otherwise known as Rocket Guy, announced his intention of building a rocket on which he would ride up to 35 miles high and back, he was not exactly taken very seriously. In fact, many assumed he was trying to pull a fast one, so to speak.

However, the successful toy inventor has shown steady progress in development of his hydrogen peroxide rocket, and now he is increasingly coming to be seen not as a hoaxer but more as a daredevil and adventurer in the vein of Evel Knievel or Steve Fossett.

Brian provides regular updates on his website and he is currently working on a half-scale vehicle that should got to 15 miles. If three unmanned flights of this vehicle are successful he will ride it himself and bail out with a parachute at the apogee of his flight.

Recently, the popular Slashdot: News for Nerds website offered readers the opportunity to submit questions for Brian to answer. He responded with good humor and patience. Brian Walker (aka Rocket Guy) Fires Back - Slashdot - July.12.02

Find previous space news in
Articles Index 1999-2002


See also  
Space Headlines
RLV News
News Links

Investing, Satellite Building, Eyes-in-the-Sky

Predicting Quakes From Orbit

There is some evidence that potential earthquake zones produce extremely low frequency EM waves (ELF, ~1-3000Hz) prior to the actual event.

Earthquake Tracker is "a collaborative effort to track and monitor the ELF ...magnetic field fluctuations, generated by the earth near fault zones, as a possible precursor to large earthquakes (M5+)."

They are focusing on the faults in California with the help of high school groups who install and monitor ELF sensors.

However, ground measurements can only cover a small area.

Satellites Scan the World

Satellites could offer a way to monitor the whole world. Two satellites, the French Aureol 3 in the early 1980's and later the Russian Cosmos 1809, both picked up ELF activity prior to earthquakes. (See table.)

Inspired by these promising results, a student team at Stanford is building a small satellite called Quakesat to test whether such signals could be detected from orbit.

The 3kg satellite is based on the CubeSat picosat standard design developed at Stanford and now being used by a number of groups.

The satellite would operate for 6 months. Placed in a polar orbit of about 800km altitude, the satellite would scan the entire global surface every 4 days.

It could give only coarse resolution on the location of such signals. So the satellite will work with the Earthquake Tracker project, whose ground sensors will provide precise location measurments of ELF emissions after getting rough coordinates from orbit.

The French satellite DEMETER will also investigate ELF seismic precursors.

If the tests with Quaksat prove promising, the commercial firm Quakefinder, LLC plans to build a larger, long life satellite. It would sell its earthquake forecasts like meterological firms sell weather forecasts. It would also sell the ground support sensors.

Quakefinder is a spinoff of the investment firm Stellar Ventures, Projects - ELF Sensing. Stellar Ventures is the investment arm of Stellar Solutions, an aerospace consulting group.
Home  |  Directory  |  Advertising  |  About  |  Contact  |  Disclaimer
© 1999-2018 HobbySpace, All Rights Reserved.
HobbySpace is a part of Space-H Services.