Situational awareness in space

A few bits and bobs.

ESA’s new Space Situational Awareness preparatory program has received another two member states. Luxembourg and Finland have joined the program, which aims to focus on three areas of protection; space weather monitoring (SWE), to establish and identify potential threats or disturbances from the Sun-Earth interaction; Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) of satellites and spent rockets in orbit of the Earth; Near Earth Objects (NEO) – tracking natural objects that may impact Earth and cause disruptions. The SST and main structure of the SSA are core activities while the SWE, NEO and radar observatories are optional elements. Finland has subscribed to the SWE.

One asteroid that can be tracked with no other equipment that an eyeball and a ticket to central Europe will be the asteroid Roma. 50km across, the asteroid will on the 8th of July pass in front of the star Delta Ophiuchi, the fourth brightest star in the constellation of Ophiuchi, which is visible to the naked eye. The star will be seen to blink out of the sky. With the speed of the asteroid known, the duration of the blink will be a chance to measure the diameter of the asteroid in the direction of motion. This is the only such occultation by an asteroid visible to the naked eye this century. Dedicated observers can stop off to view and record this on the way to the upcoming solar eclipse…

On a more Earth bound case, the satellite AISSat-1, soon to be followed by AISSat-2, is a tiny satellite using the signal generated by the ships’ Automatic Identification System, detection from space of which was trialled on the International Space Station, to watch the passage of ships in the territorial waters of Norway. The satellite will work a little like air traffic control for the ocean and help police a rather large expanse of water, which has the slight problem of being so large ground based AIS trackers can’t cover it from the coastlines.

A 3D visualisation of the known universe has been prepared over the course of 12 years by a group of scientists, programmers and artists. The results can be seen via Derren Brown’s blog.

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