Category Archives: Cool Stuff

The COW and What?

“Over three days, the Cow produced a sudden explosion of light at least 10 times brighter than a typical supernova, and then it faded over the next few months. This unusual event occurred inside or near a star-forming galaxy known as CGCG 137-068, located about 200 million light-years away in the constellation Hercules. The Cow was first observed by the NASA-funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System telescope in Hawaii.

So exactly what is the Cow? Using data from multiple NASA missions, including the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), two groups are publishing papers that provide possible explanations for the Cow’s origins. One paper argues that the Cow is a monster black hole shredding a passing star. The second paper hypothesizes that it is a supernova — a stellar explosion — that gave birth to a black hole or a neutron star.

‘We’ve never seen anything exactly like the Cow, which is very exciting,” said Amy Lien, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We think a tidal disruption created the quick, really unusual burst of light at the beginning of the event and best explains Swift’s multiwavelength observations as it faded over the next few months.’ ” — NASA

And in an unrelated bit: did you hear about the mysterious radio signals picked up by the CHIME radio telescope? What is causing the fast radio bursts is unknown, there is even speculation that these are intentional pulses i.e. from aliens. I don’t think I’d go that far, but just what is causing them is a mystery nonetheless. A pretty good explanation can be found at Scientific American.

Perhaps we will see a lot more of them as times goes on with the CHIME radio telescope.

SpaceBok Hops Along

I have to say it, yes right here: I love this thing. According to the press release below, the SpaceBok could jump as high as 4 meters if it were on the moon! I was going to try and describe the motion then I thought a video would be perfect and then remembered the first video I saw of the SpaceBok and even found it – see below.

ESA’s caption: This walking and hopping robot is currently being tested in ESA’s Mars Yard.

SpaceBok is a quadruped robot designed by a Swiss student team from ETH Zurich and ZHAW Zurich, under the supervision of Professor Marco Hutter and PhD student Hendrik Kolvenbach, for future missions to the Moon or Mars.

“Legged robots can traverse unstructured terrain and could be used to explore areas of interest, such as craters, which rovers are unable to reach,” explains team member Patrick Barton. “As they are very versatile, they can change gait to adapt to different terrain.”

“In contrast to other legged robots, SpaceBok is primarily built for hopping,” adds team member Elias Hampp. “While this is not particularly useful on Earth, it could reach a height of four metres on the Moon. This would allow for a fast and efficient way of moving forward.”

““We are currently implementing and testing vision sensors, to increase SpaceBok’s autonomy and robustness,” says team member Radek Zenkl.

ESA’s 8 x 8 m Mars Yard ‘sandbox’, filled with different sizes of sand, gravel, and rock, is part of the Planetary Robotics Laboratory at the Agency’s ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

Leaving Mars – Fairwell MarCO’s

Another successful aspect of InSight mission was the two tiny cubesats MarCO’s A and B. The pair accompanied InSight on the journey to Mars and demonstrated their ability to act as communications relays.

The success of the MarCO satellites probably will ensured a bright future for such satellites in future mission. Well done!

NASA: MarCO-B, one of the experimental Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats, took this image of Mars from about 4,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) away during its flyby of the Red Planet on Nov. 26, 2018. MarCO-B was flying by Mars with its twin, MarCO-A, to attempt to serve as communications relays for NASA’s InSight spacecraft as it landed on Mars. This image was taken at about 12:10 p.m. PST (3:10 p.m. EST) while MarCO-B was flying away from the planet after InSight landed.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Launch Pad Water Test

Testing a newly modified Ignition Overpressure Protection and Sound Suppression water deluge system at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39B. The system mitigates the energy and heat during launch.

The system “dumped” about 450,000 gallons of water over the mobile launcher and flame deflector, the spectacular fountains shot water around 33 meters / 100 feet into the air.

Perhaps in the future NASA will produce a video of the pump-side of the system – I’d like to see those pumps.

Thanks to NASA and the Kennedy Space Center

New School Challenges from ESA

Bravo ESA, makes me wish I were a kid again!

ESA:  In the beginning of the World Space Week, ESA is proud to present two new school challenges: Climate Detectives and Moon Camp.

Meant for teams of school students guided by a teacher or educator, Moon Camp and Climate Detectives give young people the chance to run interdisciplinary projects and develop new skills, ranging from science and technology to teamwork and communication, like real space experts would do.

Moon Camp

With Moon Camp, ESA and Airbus Foundation, in partnership with Autodesk, challenge students to take part in the future exploration of space by designing a human shelter on the Moon! The students will have to design a 3D Moon Camp able to sustain the lives of at least two astronauts, taking into account:

  • the use of local resources, such as lunar soil and ice
  • technological solutions, such as power sources, a recycling system, a food growth chamber
  • protection  from meteorites and radiation

The Moon Camp challenge presents two separate categories featuring different levels of complexity:

  • Category 1, for students  up to 12 years old, using the 3D design tool Tinkercad® (free online tool) and
  • Category 2, for students between 13 to 18 years old, using the 3D design tool Fusion 360® (free for students and schools).

Teams can submit their design from 1 November 2018 until 16 March 2019.

Find out more about Moon Camp and help ESA settle on the Moon!

Climate Detectives

Climate detectives

With Climate Detectives ESA challenges students to make a difference in understanding and protecting Earth’s climate.Students will identify a climate problem by observing their local environment and will be tasked to investigate it as Climate Detectives. To this end, they will use available Earth Observation data coming from real satellites, or take measurements on the ground. Based on their investigation, teams will propose a way to help reduce the problem. The students will learn about climate on Earth as a complex and changing system and the importance of respecting our environment.

Climate Detectives is open to teams of students between 8 and 15 years old. The project is deployed in three Phases. Submission for Phase 1 is now open, and it will close on 15 November 2018.

So, do not hesitate any further and find out more about Climate Detectives. ESA needs you to make a difference by protecting Earth’s climate and helping our planet!

A GoPro Balloon Ride

A fun video.

A couple of links were included in the video description on YouTube:

A blog post on the launch and,

How to Send Your GoPro to space.

Since it is rather mountainous around these parts I won’t be trying this for fear of never being able to get to the returned camera. I do highly recommend taking a look at how it was done, very interesting. Also note if you might want to try this be very sure to check the regulations where you live! No need to create a hazard or get yourself into trouble.

Thanks to “BloonStu” for the entertainment!

Note: There may be a SpaceX launch later today, I hope to have a live link it does happen.