visible satellite

“The patio was lit only with candles and moonlight, so aides used the camera lights on their phones to help the stone-faced Trump and Abe read through the documents,” Liptak writes. In DeAgazio’s first photo, you can see a phone flashlight being used in that way.

Why is this important? Mobile phones have flashlights, yes — and cameras, microphones and Internet connectivity. When Edward Snowden was meeting with reporters in Hong Kong at the moment he was leaking the material he’d stolen from the NSA, he famously asked that they place their phones in the refrigerator — blocking any radio signals in the event that the visitors’ phones had been hacked. This was considered the most secure way of ensuring that the phones couldn’t be used as wiretaps, even more secure than removing the battery. Phones — especially phones with their flashes turned on for improved visibility — are portable television satellite trucks and, if compromised, can be used to get a great deal of information about what’s happening nearby, unless precautions are taken.

Proba-2 partial eclipse, 26 February 2017

On 26 February, an annular solar eclipse took place over South America and Africa.

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, totally or partially blocking the Sun from Earth’s point of view. In an annular eclipse, the apparent diameter of the Moon appears smaller than the Sun’s diameter, such that a ring of the solar disc remains visible.

ESA’s Proba-2 satellite observed a series of partial eclipses from space. In fact, the Moon crossed the satellite’s field of view four times, three times passing in front of the Sun.

This image is shows one of the partial eclipses, taken by Proba-2’s SWAP imager, which snaps the Sun in ultraviolet light to capture the turbulent surface of the Sun and its swirling corona.

Kavir Desert, Iran
Astronaut photograph ISS038-E-47388 was acquired on February 14, 2014, with a Nikon D3 digital camera using a 200 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 38 crew. (via NASA Visible Earth)


Plant of the Day

Thursday 21 September 2017

Thank you to the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK, for an amazing tour last weekend. The botanist and specialist in Madagascar flora, Ian Derbyshire, kindly explained how the approximately 7 million pressed, dried and preserved specimens, collected from all around the world, are cared for and their value to science. The specimen in this box is Tahina spectabilis (dimaka, ‘self-destructive’ palm) a monocarpic (dies after flowering and setting seed) palm that remained undetected by science until 2007 even though it is large enough to be visible in satellite imagery. The hope is now to conserve this species through the distribution of seed and cultivation in botanic gardens.

Jill Raggett


Rocketing into a mailbox in the early 1960s, this postcard shows the Echo 1A satellite atop a Thor-Delta launch vehicle. Echo 1A launched on August 12, 1960, and was the first successful launch of the Echo program. A previous launch attempt in May saw the vehicle crash into the Atlantic ocean when the control jets on the Delta second stage failed to ignite.

Project Echo aimed to demonstrate passive communications in orbit by having a signal bounce off the satellite’s surface. Both Echo satellites were inflatable balloons of Mylar over 100 feet in diameter that were expanded by inert gasses one in orbit. To prevent rupture from micrometeroids, a special chemical powder coated the interior of the balloon which would automatically seal any breach. Echo 1A outlasted engineer’s predictions of orbital life by four years, burning up in the atmosphere in 1968.

Visible immediately below the satellite is the Altair-1 third stage which put Echo into its final orbit. The 524-pound, 6 foot motor comprised the final stage of the booster, as was encapsulated along with the satellite in the payload fairing. Altair was used as an upper stage on a number of other rockets in the early days of the space program, including Vanguard and Scout.

The image in the postcard was taken shortly before the one below, which shows the satellite atop the Thor-Delta rocket.

The Himawari 8 satellite is a Japanese weather satellite placed in stationary orbit around the Earth, looking down on the western Pacific Ocean. It regularly provides absolutely amazing images of this planet. This video captures a sunrise over the Himalayan Mountains and Southeast Asia as seen by the spectral filters on that satellite (visible both before and after sunrise)

Egypt turns to technology in effort to protect ancient treasures from looters

The closest comparison is Swiss cheese: holes in vast swaths of land where looters, armed with machine guns and bulldozers, take to ancient archaeological sites in search of loot. To the untrained eye, these holes, visible in satellite images, seem haphazard. But to experts, these deep pits, spanning hectares of land, are the work of sophisticated traffickers.

It’s exactly the kind of looting that worries Mohamed Ibrahim Ali, Egypt’s minister of state for antiquities. “The objects that are stolen from museums are easier to track because they are registered,” Ibrahim said, referring to artefacts taken from Egypt’s Malawi National Museum and Egyptian Museum in Cairo, many of which have been identified and returned. Read more.