A seriously close call!

An old rocket body and military satellite—large pieces of space junk dating back to the Soviet Union—nearly smashed into each other on Friday morning, in an uncomfortable near-miss that would’ve resulted in thousands of pieces of debris had they collided…

LeoLabs, a private company that tracks satellites and derelict objects in low Earth orbit, spotted the near-collision in radar data…

An old rocket body and military satellite—large pieces of space junk dating back to the Soviet Union—nearly smashed into each other on Friday morning, in an uncomfortable near-miss that would’ve resulted in thousands of pieces of debris had they collided…

Near-misses in space are becoming increasingly common, whether it’s conjunctions between defunct satellites or clouds of debris that threaten the International Space Station. Avoidance maneuvers are now a steady fixture for satellite operators, with SpaceX, as an extreme example, having to perform over 26,000 collision avoidance maneuvers of its Starlink satellites from December 1, 2020 to November 30, 2022.

In addition to focusing on collision avoidance, LeoLabs recommends the implementation of debris mitigation and debris remediation efforts. This could take the form of sensible guidelines having to do with the removal of satellites once they’re been retired, as well as the introduction of debris removal technologies.

Of course, this would require global attention and resolution. So far, we haven’t serious effort by any of the individual nations who placed all this hardware into orbit in the first place…to clean up their mess.

“What I have seen moved me, as a scientist, as an engineer, and as a human being.”

While we await the ceremonial release of the first official images taken by NASA’s uber-expensive James Webb Space Telescope, early reactions to the long-awaited shots are already sounding pretty promising.

“The images are being taken right now,” NASA’s scientific missions lead Thomas Zurbuchen told reporters on Wednesday. “There is already some amazing science in the can, and some others are yet to be taken as we go forward. We are in the middle of getting the history-making data down.”

NASA plans to release several images on July 12, the inaugural “first light” observations from the space telescope and a potentially groundbreaking moment for the field of astronomy.

I have marked my calendar.

Possible Link between ‘Oumuamua and Unidentified Aerial Phenomena

Two things to consider:

First, the interstellar object discovered in 2017, ‘Oumuamua, was inferred to have a flat shape and seemed to be pushed away from the sun as if it were a lightsail. This “pancake” was tumbling once every eight hours and originated from the rare state of the local standard of rest—which averages over the motions of all the stars in the vicinity of the sun.

Second, the Pentagon is about to deliver a report to Congress stating that some unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) are real but that their nature is unknown. If UAP originated from China or Russia and were a national security risk, their existence would have never been revealed to the public. Hence, it is reasonable to conclude that the U.S. government believes that some of these objects are not human in origin. This leaves two possibilities: either UAP are natural terrestrial phenomena or they are extraterrestrial in origin. Both possibilities imply something new and interesting that we did not know before…

Many or even most UAP might be natural phenomena. But even if one of them is extraterrestrial, might there be any possible link to ‘Oumuamua?

Enjoy your read of Avi Loeb’s wee article…and it is small by the standards of the sort of learned scientific works he often produces. Still, the two possible conclusions he entertains…only one of which is mathematically likely…suggest a potential conclusion just this side of the late Isaac Asimov.

“Pale Blue Dot” revisited

Click to enlargeNASA/JPL-Caltech

For the 30th anniversary of one of the most iconic views from the Voyager mission, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is publishing a new version of the image known as the “Pale Blue Dot.”

The updated image uses modern image-processing software and techniques while respecting the intent of those who planned the image. Like the original, the new color view shows Planet Earth as a single, bright blue pixel in the vastness of space. Rays of sunlight scattered within the camera optics stretch across the scene, one of which happens to have intersected dramatically with Earth.

The view was obtained on Feb. 14, 1990, just minutes before Voyager 1’s cameras were intentionally powered off to conserve power and because the probe – along with its sibling, Voyager 2 – would not make close flybys of any other objects during their lifetimes. Shutting down instruments and other systems on the two Voyager spacecraft has been a gradual and ongoing process that has helped enable their longevity.

RTFA. Offer your memory an opportunity to deepen your sense of proportion.

Here comes another piece of the future

Kudos to Elon Musk, his peers like Jeff Bezos, and many more not-so-public figures striving to move our species forward to better times.

US goverments lost any sense of science leadership decades ago. Not as good a vote-getter as 19th Century bible-thumping and bigotry. Congress remains more concerned with job security than justice, myths of pearly gates instead of education and health.

The hopes and praise fall to Elon Musk. An immigrant who got round to becoming a citizen in this millennium.