Category Archives: Science/Tech

Colourful clouds, plumes and dots in the sky over Norway last Friday. Not extra terrestrials – all NASA’s doing apparently. To wit:

The colours were actually created by the NASA-funded Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment (AZURE) which dispersed gas tracers to probe winds in Earth’s upper atmosphereAZURE’s tracers originated from two short-lived sounding rockets launched from the Andøya Space Center in Norway. The harmless gases, trimethylaluminum and a barium/strontium mixture, were released into the ionosphere at altitudes of 115 and 250 km. The vapor trails were observed dispersing from several ground stations. Mapping how AZURE’s vapors dispersed should increase humanity’s understanding of how the solar wind transfers energy to the Earth and powers auroras.

(Image: Yang Sutie)


Well now, if it isn’t the International Space Station. To wit.

Using precise timing, the Earth-orbiting space platform was photographed in front of a partially lit gibbous Moon last month. The featured image was taken from Palo AltoCaliforniaUSA with an exposure time of only 1/667 of a second. In contrast, the duration of the transit of the ISS across the entire Moon was about half a second. A close inspection of this unusually crisp ISS silhouette will reveal the outlines of numerous solar panels and trusses. The bright crater Tycho is visible on the lower left, as well as comparatively rough, light colored terrain known as highlands, and relatively smooth, dark colored areas known as maria.

(Image: Eric Holland)


Last month, Japanese Space Agency JAXA’s robotic Hyabusa2 spacecraft shot and deliberately bounced off asteroid 162173 Ryugu just to see what would happen. Hardcore. To wit:

Before impact, Hayabusa2 fired a small bullet into 162173 Ryugu to scattered surface material and increase the chance that Hayabusa2 would be able to capture some. Next month, Hayabusa2 will fire a much larger bullet into Ryugu in an effort to capture sub-surface material. Near the end of this year, Hayabusa2 is scheduled to depart Ryugu and begin a looping trip back to Earth, hopefully returning small pieces of this near-Earth asteroid in late 2020. Studying Ryugu could tell humanity not only about the minor planet‘s surface and interior, but about what materials were available in the early Solar System for the development of life.


The concept of ‘Warp Drive’ featured in Star Trek (and other science fiction) can be a little tricky to visualise, given that Warp 1 is the speed of light and Warp 6 is 392 times the speed of light.

Trekkie EC Henry compares the relative speeds of various ships from the Star Trek canon including the original Enterprise NX-01, subsequent Enterprises, Voyager and Defiant, racing them from Earth to the edge of the solar system,.


On Sunday night, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The rocket returned safely to earth but not before atmospheric conditions during the launch caused what appeared to be a spectacular nebula in the sky, prompting LA mayor Eric Garrett to issue a reassuring tweet.