Liquid Mirror Telescope, Thanks to Rotating Film of Mercury #telescope #astronomy

How’s that work? Schematic representation of the forces acting on an object situated on a sloping surface. The red arrow represents the force of gravity. The green arrow represents the normal force. Since those two forces are not aligned in this situation, they do not entirely cancel each other. The resultant force is directed down the slope. In this image the shape is a cross section of a parabolic dish. When the dish is rotating then there is one rotation rate that exactly matches the parabolic shape. If the rotation rate matches the shape, then an object that is co-rotating with the disk will neither climb up the slope, nor slide down the slope.

If you’ve been a Do-It-Yourself sort of nerd, you may have ground down and polished a telescope mirror. Polished… and polished… and polished. But getting it perfect is necessary, even more so for professional astronomers. So this piece about a liquid mirror caught my eye:

The International Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT) in the central Himalayas… houses a four-meter rotating mirror coated with a thin film of liquid mercury. Rotating once every eight seconds, the mirror floats on a film of compressed air about 10 microns thick… Liquid-mirror telescopes take advantage of the fact that the surface of a rotating liquid naturally takes on a parabolic shape, which is ideal for focusing light.

Good luck guys studying your transient or variable objects such as supernovae, gravitational lenses, space debris and asteroids.

Wow, what a concept. Of course, there’s lots of fancy optics too with just as much of a wow-factor. And lots of organizations are involved:

The ILMT collaboration includes researchers at the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences, and the Indian Space Research Organization, the University of Liège and the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Belgium, Poznan Observatory in Poland, the Ulugh Beg Astronomical Institute of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences and National University of Uzbekistan in Uzbekistan, the University of British Columbia, Laval University, the University of Montreal, the University of Toronto, York University and the University of Victoria in Canada.

The telescope was designed and built by the Advanced Mechanical and Optical Systems and the Centre Spatial de Liège in Belgium.

That’s what I call an international effort.

Corporate Space Industry is Here #scifi #sciencefiction #SpaceX #satellite

333 seconds-exposure image from Blanco 4-meter telescope at the CTIO showing the light pollution of Starlink Satellites

August is upon us, the end of summer is coming, and consider this: Space X just broke its own record for most launches in a year, and it only took them seven months to do it.

July 22nd “marks SpaceX’s 32nd successful launch of 2022, surpassing its previous record of 31 successful launches in 2021—and there’s still five months left in 2022. It’s a record for SpaceX and also for any launch provider.” Gizmodo

They launched more Starlink satellites into orbit, and now have about 2600 satellites in the “constellation” providing internet services. In just 20 years, Space X has become a huge player in space. While NASA, ESA, and other familiar organizations from my youth are still important, corporations are increasing their hold on Earth orbit.

As a science fiction writer, I can’t ignore the trend. Book 1 of my latest trilogy is released August 4, 2022. Winnie Bravo, Space Pilot. Not only do corporations rule space, but they’re trying to clean up the mess of space junk you and I (as humans on Earth) are creating today… and will continue on into the future.

Humanity’s future in space depends on audacious pilots, and it may help if they’re a bit crazy.

Winnie Bravo is brash, reckless, and more than a little annoying as she sets out to prove herself, careening from adventure to adventure with her partner Bertie never far away.

In orbit, across the Moon, and on Earth, she pursues the truth about a nefarious probe and a scoundrel who will stop at nothing. What she discovers brings her closer to the truth than she bargained for, and may get her killed, or worse, fired.

If you love traveling to the future for rollicking adventures, you won’t be able to put Winnie’s story down. Binge on through, because the complete trilogy is being released between now and September 15th.

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Launch into Space – No Rocket Needed #Rocket #space #spacecraft

Rockets aren’t the only way into space. How about running a payload around and around in an accelerator, building up speed, and then releasing it. Yes, throw a satellite into space. SpinLaunch had a successful flight, and there’s even video from the test vehicle:

I’ll let them tell it:

On Friday, April 22nd, we conducted Flight Test #8 where the engineering team tested our first optical camera payload in our Suborbital Accelerator. Check out this exclusive onboard footage that shows the perspective of the 3-meter flight test vehicle being launched into the atmosphere at more than a thousand miles per hour. Flying with the digital camera system onboard marks an important step towards integrating complex payloads into SpinLaunch flight test vehicles… an innovative new space technology company that has created an alternative method for putting 200 kilogram class satellites into low earth orbit.

Check it out! I have no idea how much electrical power this takes or whether companies will line up to use the service, but it looks like a less polluting and less risky way to launch a satellite. I’m just gonna sit here with my eyes wide and my jaw slack. Go to their web page for more cool images and info:

Weed Grows in Lunar Soil (with some help) #NASA #botany #space

Fifty years ago, astronauts brought lunar regolith back to Earth. Now, University of Florida scientists have grown plants in tiny samples.

Arabidopsis thaliana, the species used for the study – though those were ground up for analysis before flowering like this one pictured. Generally considered a weed (it is found along the shoulders of roads and in disturbed land) it is often used in studies.

It was clear that the plants were not as robust as the control group plants growing in volcanic ash, and the plants were growing differently depending on which type of sample they were in. The plants grew more slowly and had stunted roots; additionally, some had stunted leaves and sported reddish pigmentation… the plants were indeed under stress and had reacted the way researchers have seen Arabidopsis respond to growth in other harsh environments, such as when soil has too much salt or heavy metals.  NASA

Plants will grow in various sterile materials, or with no solid substrate at all, given proper nutrients and light, so my first thought was… now we see that lunar regolith is not poisonous. Good to know. But it wasn’t totally inert, either.

Will astronauts, or maybe colonists, grow food hydroponically? Aeroponically? Will the pumps, pipes, and valves needed for such systems be too much to transport and maintain compared to beds of local regolith? Even after whatever treatments may be needed to prepare the alien soil? Will bioreactors brewing microbes make more sense? I suspect all these possibilities will be tried at some point, but I can’t predict what method will win. Maybe bulk calories will come from those bioreactors, with herbs and flowers that brighten a hard life in space sitting on every table. What plants would you want in your colony?

I started my Martian farmers with treated regolith, spiked by composting and recycling everything organic they could get their hands on, but I have an advantage over NASA. I create science fiction. Join my colony on Mars – what do you think?

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  • Glory on Mars – Roboticist Emma Winter must discover the truth before the Red Planet kills the first settlers.
  • Born on Mars – Jake didn’t ask to be born into a failing habitat on Mars. When new colonists land half a world away, can he save his friends and family?
  • Hermit on Mars – Sig will save ungrateful Martian miners if it kills him.
  • Water on Mars – Scoundrels on Mars and Earth drag Bliss into their deadly schemes.
  • Storm on Mars – Zeker must find a way back into the colony, but can a psychopath save humanity’s foothold on Mars?

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