Archive for May, 2011

Eta Aquarids

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Up all night with NASA

Would you like to see a piece of Halley’s Comet? Now’s your chance! Each spring as Earth passes through the debris trail from Halley’s Comet (1P/Halley), the cosmic bits burn up in our atmosphere and result in the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower. In 2011 the peak will occur on the night of May 5 and into the morning of May 6. A dark new moon on May 3 will help darken the night skies for a good viewing experience, with meteor rates of about 40-60 meteors per hour under ideal conditions. Ideal viewing conditions are a dark, clear sky away from city lights, especially just before dawn.

On May 5, you can join NASA experts for a live Web chat to observe this year’s Eta Aquarid meteor shower. Make plans to stay “up all night” with NASA experts from 11 p.m. EDT (May 5) until 5 a.m. EDT (May 6). For this overnight Web chat, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will attempt to establish a Ustream view of the skies over Huntsville, Ala. So get ready to help NASA watch the skies!

Joining the chat is easy. Simply return to this page a few minutes before the chat begins. The chat module will appear at the bottom of this page. After you log in, wait for the chat module to be activated, then ask your questions!

No TV? No Internet? Try Satcom.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

First thought upon hearing the news of Usama bin Laden’s demise was “that’s an interesting name for a Pakistani city.” No, Abbottabad wasn’t named after Bud Abbott, originally from Asbury Park, NJ. “Hey, Abbott! I’m a bad boy,” is the signature one-liner from another Jersey guy, Lou Costello of Paterson. The city was actually named after Major John Abbott, an Indian Army Officer.

So U.S. intelligence found no telephone or Internet connection for this “fortress” in Pakistan, which they thought was remarkable in a neighborhood such as this. Judging from the widely published architectural rendering, I’d conclude they had a satellite antenna capable of two-way communications. Not impossible to intercept, but that depends on encryption and which spacecraft is being used.

Wouldn’t it be funny if they were using the SES satellites at 57° East? Both NSS-12 and NSS-703 provide plenty of two-way satcom services, and the look angle is favorable. However, the rendering shows the antenna pointed toward the southwestern horizon, suggesting perhaps one of the Arabsat birds. We’ll follow up on that.

Amazing how close it was to Pakistan’s “West Point.”