Spectacular Satellite Photo Of The Giant Hurricane Kenneth

A giant storm is the new talk of the town, as the massive Hurricane Kenneth continues to bear down upon the eastern Pacific seas, yet to make landfall. The giant storm grew from a large Tropical Storm to a giant Hurricane in a span of two days. Kenneth’s windspeeds were recorded at 230 kmph, which means that it is a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

Kenneth is a rare late-November tropical hurricane. On 21st November, the windspeeds were clocked at 140 kmph, but quickly gathered strength from the warm seas surrounding the eye of the storm. Her’s a photo the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite snapped on 21st November:

This photo of Kenneth was taken on 21st November by Terra. Courtesy: NASA

The storm continues to move eastwards. It has weakened somewhat, but is still a Category 4 storm. There has been no warning issued, as it is not expected to make landfall. Its current location is off the west coast from Baja California, New Mexico.

Here’s a more recent image from the NOAA’s premier GOES-13 satellite:

Hurricane Kenneth as seen by NOAA's GOES satellite on 22nd November. The eye is clearly visible. (Courtesy: NOAA/NASA)

The storm is expected to weaken further as it moves northwest. It’s late season giant, but is not expected to cause any damage on land.

NASA’s Falling Satellite Crashes: Did You Use Android’s Tracking App and Insurance To Protect Yourself? [UPDATED]

If you’re dead scared of the falling NASA satellite, you can now use your Android phone to keep track of the rogue beast. A free Android app lets you track the falling UARS satellite.

We’ve already told you about the defunct satellite crashing to the Earth (here). We’ve assured you that it won’t hit you (here)! You can safely go about your routine job without worrying about anything. Still Android provides further assurance.

UPDATE: UARS Satellite is DOWN! The Debris Fell Between 2323 EST on 23rd September to 0109 EST on 24th September. This is official from NASA. Location is not yet known

The Falling Satellite

It’s Coming Crashing Down! Tonight!

NASA’s defunct UARS satellite is crashing tonight, 23rd of September. The location and exact time are not yet known. It will definitely miss North America and Europe and will, thus, plunge into the sea. The debris will be spread over a large range of latitude and longitude, so some may yet fall on land. However, we’ve already assured you, relying on NASA, that you’re safe.

NASA App (And Insurance!!)

Android App

You probably know of the Android app Satellite AR. They have added a temporary button allowing you to track the UARS spacecraft as it makes its fiery descent towards Earth.

You can read more about it and download it here.

The app allows you to track all satellites directly above you. For today, it allows you to track the falling satellite in its final moments.


There’s more! There’s insurance against being hit by falling satellite debris. The insurance companies must be smiling ear to ear as they dole out one-time pay insurances for many people insuring their and their family’s lives as well as their cars or houses. Health insurance will cover injuries and life insurance will cover… well, you need not bother thinking about that.

There has been only one incident of someone being hit by falling space junk! And she never got hurt. But that doesn’t mean that you should drop your guard in front of a falling bus-sized satellite, right?

NASA’s Falling Satellite To Hit Earth Tomorrow: Don’t Panic, You Won’t Be Hit; Enjoy The Light Show Instead [UPDATED]

If you believe in the old superstition and see the bus-sized NASA satellite falling in a day or two, do remember to make a wish. The UARS falling through the atmosphere will look like a nice shooting star. And as for being hit by falling debris, let me say what Douglas Adams had said so very successfully Don’t Panic. NASA assures that your chances of being hit by a piece of debris from the falling space-craft are extremely small.

The satellite may enter the Earth’s atmosphere at any time between Sept 23 at 1023 EST (1432 GMT) and Sept 24 at 0248 EST (0648 GMT). This 19-hour window is NASA’s best bet. The point of re-entry, as predicted by Harro Zimmer in Berlin, will be over the West Pacific near Northwest Japan. The range of co-ordinates is about 19.10N and 128.50E.

The satellite may be seen over South Florida after sunset.

Satellite was falling faster than earlier thought:  http://techie-buzz.com/science/nasa-dead-satellite-crash.html
The UARS satellite (Courtesy: NASA)

How Unlucky Do You Need To Be?

We intend to do a small qualitative comparative study to quell any fears that you might be having. NASA has come up with a figure of the possibility that anyone any one single person will be hit by a piece of debris from the satellite. The chances are less than 1-in-3200.   The chance of you being hit (the more specific case) is 1-in-hundred-trillion. You’ve got to be REALLY unlucky to get hit.

Let’s compare some numbers. One-in-hundred-trillion is really the same chance you have of dying while shaving with your electric razor. The chance of you being struck by lightning is 1-in-60,000. The chance of you meeting a car accident is much higher. If you can live with these possibilities, you shouldn’t be worried about falling space debris. As I said before, you’ve got to be REALLY unlucky.

Still Worried? Enjoy the Light Show

NASA admits that they don’t know the location of the spacecraft and they’ll only know that once the UARS spacecraft re-enters the ionosphere of the atmosphere. They predict that the latitude will be something between 600N and 600S (roughly), but that of no use. It is quite obvious that the satellite will not plunge into the Polar Regions. This leaves a large swath of ocean free for the satellite to plunge into.

If you’re still worried, maybe you can at least get lucky enough to see the satellite re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, breaking up and then burning up. This will create a nice light show mimicking a meteor shower. However, unlike a meteor shower, this will last for a very short time.

If you’re still paranoid, we advise you some bed rest. At least, that way you’ll be indoors.

NASA’s Giant Dead Satellite Falling Towards Earth Faster Than Earlier Thought; To Crash on 24th September

A huge defunct satellite is soon to come crashing down to the Earth in a few days time, but NASA assures everyone that no one will get hurt! The satellite in question is the Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite (UARS). The date for the crash is 24th September. The crash window, earlier announced to be between late September and early October, has now been curtailed to just three days.

What Are Your Odds Of Being Hit? And Something About a Light Show!  http://techie-buzz.com/science/nasa-falling-satellite-chances.html

UPDATE: Yeah, we were exactly right. Crash happened at midnight of 23rd September. Check it out:  http://techie-buzz.com/science/android-app-falling-satellite.html  (Updated Article)


The Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Any Danger? Nope, says NASA

Space junk experts ruled that the chance of a piece of debris from the giant satellite hitting someone on the ground is extremely remote – about 1 in 3200. The logic is simple 75% of the Earth is covered by oceans and, thus, a drop into the ocean is the most likely scenario.

NASA expects the 5-ton UARS to break up into at least 26 fragments that will be big enough to survive the re-entry and reach the surface of the Earth. These fragments are mainly scrap metal and there is no need to worry about toxic materials. The fuel was used up in 2005, when the UARS completed its mission.

UARS was launched in 1991 to measure ozone content in the atmosphere along with other gases. It also measured wind speeds and studied how radiation and charged particles from the sun affect the upper part of the atmosphere. This mission was completed in 2005. Since then, it has been orbiting Earth, being nothing more than just a big piece of space junk.

NASA’s official UARS Page:  http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/uars/index.html

The Crash

The satellite is losing altitude, even as you read this. Currently it is at about 140 miles above the Earth’s surface. It is in fact falling faster than expected owing to the increased solar activity, which tends to lower the density of the atmosphere by heating it up.

According to NASA,

Re-entry is expected Sept. 23, plus or minus a day. The re-entry of UARS is advancing because of a sharp increase in solar activity since the beginning of this week.

No one knows where the satellite will fall. That will be known only two hours before the re-entry.

The crash is expected to occur between the latitudes of Northern Canada (about 62 degrees North) and south of South America (about 60 degrees South). This leaves a large region of ocean for the spacecraft to splash into. NASA is monitoring the satellite’s every move.

NASA has warned the public not to touch any debris that they might chance across, either on land or in the water. Anyone chancing upon such a piece should contact their local law enforcement agency.

Cosmic Spectacle: Stunning Pic of Earth Eclipsing the Sun, As Seen By NASA Satellite from Outer Space

For the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a Solar Eclipse is no big deal it sees two each year. Now it returns a photo of what it sees and it is stunning. But don’t trust us, take a look at it yourself! Here it is!

The Solar Eclipse as taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Courtesy: SDO/NASA)

The Solar Dynamics Observatory

The SDO is a satellite, which observes the Sun and monitors its activities. It is on a five-year mission. Part of the Living with a Star (LWS) Program, the goal of SDO is to study how the Sun influences the Earth. Of primary importance is the study of how the magnetic storms from the Sun influences the Earth’s atmosphere and the various communication devices that depend crucially on the ionosphere layer of the atmosphere. It also measures the seismic activity of the Sun (i.e. Sun quakes). This is a very rich field of study as the Sun, being a ball of plasma, experiences violent quakes quite frequently. The absence of solid rock on the Sun prevents attenuation of the seismic waves and the whole Sun thus moves with basically one frequency and higher harmonics during a violent Solar Quake. This can be roughly understood by the model of a balloon completely filled with water. Whole of the bulbous balloon can be set into vibration of one frequency. These form of vibrations involving just one frequency and higher harmonics are called normal modes. Monitoring these normal modes for the Sun, the SDO can give vital details about the solar density.

Eclipse Season and another photo

The present eclipse will last till 4th October, having commenced on the 11th of September. The Sun is already showing signs of violence as it builds up to the predicted peak in its activity in 2013. The last few months have seen violent solar storms, which have even knocked out communication. These will only increase and SDO’s job of monitoring these is crucial.

Just before ending, we wish to share another photo with you, taken from the Space Station. This one shows the bright Sun, blue Earth and black space. Enjoy.

The bright Sun and the blue Earth (Courtesy: NASA/ISS)

The Sun is a thing of immense beauty and fearful fury. We perceive it as an object which has given us life, but it’s really indifferent. We shall forever be in its awe.

Satellite Snaps Infrared Photo of Eye of Hurricane Irene, the Biggest Atlantic Storm in 2011

The eye of Hurricane Irene was spotted by infrared cameras from space and it is scary. Hurricane Irene breezed past the Bahamas, with winds clocking up speeds of 115 mph.

Though, the hurricane had gone through a dip in power on the 23rd of August, it regained more than what it lost the day after. It is the first major hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season. Hurricane Irene is now a Category 3 storm, a term used for storms having winds in the range of 110 to 130 mph (175 to 210 kmph).

(Update: Irene now a major storm)

The following picture was taken by infrared instruments on board the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite or GOES-East. It is managed by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Hurricane Irene eye seen from space. It was taken by infrared detectors aboard GOES East satellite. Photo courtesy: NOAA

The redder areas are hotter than the cooler blue areas. (Infrared photos detect heat patterns and not actual visible features).

A hurricane is basically winds of high speed moving towards a central eye’ or region of low pressure. The central region is a hot’ region, with a markedly higher temperature than the surrounding areas. As a rule of thumb, hotter regions mean lower pressure. As air move from higher to lower pressure, high speed winds spiral towards the center.

The Bahamas is expected to receive 15 to 20 cm of rainfall due to Irene, with some regions expected rainfall as high as 40 cm. Storm surges are also expected. Irene is also predicted to move northward to the banks of Outer Carolina, where it will make landfall. However, by this time, it will have weakened due to cooler waters there, NOAA reported. Heavy rains are still forecast.

Irene is slightly early. Although August to October are peak months in the Atlantic hurricane season, big storms generally come in September.

(Update:  Irene now a major storm)

Asian Space Race: China to Launch First Satellite for Pakistan

In a move, dripping with political motivations, China has agreed to launch a Pakistan satellite for the first time ever. This marks a landmark and a new beginningin China-Pakistan relations. The news was reported by China’s Xinhua news agency.

The existing Pakistani satellite, PAKSAT-1 was acquired by Pakistan after Indonesia gave up on it due to power problems.

The new satellite

The new satellite, PAKSAT-1R, is expected to be a communication satellite. According to Xinhua, the satellite will be used for a large number of purposes, like weather monitoring, high-power communication and, crucially, strategic defence purposes. It was built by Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco). (PAKSAT-1R page here). Much of the construction of the satellite was done by engineers from China. Xinhua did not provide a date for the launch, though, saying that it will be launched at an Appropriate Time.

PAKSAT-1R prototype

A new landmark in co-operation

Pakistan welcomed China’s support to its space program, saying that this would take Sino-Pak relations to greater heights. Pakistan’s ambassador to Beijing, Masood Khan described said that this establishes a new platform, and it marks a new beginning. He hinted that this was just the beginning of a long collaborative effort

As we accomplished this goal of launching PAKSAT-1R, we will swiftly move on to expand our collaboration with China in related fields of space science and technology.

So far, Pakistan’s space agency is a fledgling body and its forays into space miniscule in scale compared with those of its neighbours like India and China. However, it wants to expand its indigenous capabilities on satellite design with China’s help. The not-so-secret aspiration of Pakistan’s is to match up with India’s capabilities as soon as it can, but it has a long way to go.

India hasn’t reacted to this news as yet.

NASA’s Jupiter Mission Satellite to be Launched On August 5; Deep Space Missions to Follow

NASA is all set to launch the spacecraft Juno for its Jupiter mission, using the powerful Atlas V 551 rocket as the launch vehicle. The scheduled launch date is August 5 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Mission Juno is a decade old project of NASA designed to get information about the Jupiter. It comprises the Juno satellite, which is worth $1.1 billion. The launch vehicle is one of the most powerful launch vehicles in the world. It was originally built as an intercontinental ballistic missile (Atlas Missile).

The Juno Satellite

Named After A Goddess

The name of the mission comes from the Roman mythological figure, Juno, who is the daughter of the Roman god Saturn and the sister, and also wife, of the chief Roman god, Jupiter. She’s also the mother of Mars and Vulcan. Scientists hope that Jupiter will finally share some of its wonderful secrets with a spacecraft, which is His wife’s namesake.

What about Jupiter and the mission

Jupiter is a remarkable planet. It is the closest to a star and is thought to be the remnants of a second star after the Sun, which never materialised. Jupiter is the only planet known, which has its own energy source, much like the Sun, but dimmer. It was often called a Brown Star’, but that tag has been shed as Jupiter is believed to have formed as a planet forms. It has a mass which is about a thousandth of a Solar Mass, which is too less for it to be able to fuse hydrogen. The debate is still out as to whether Jupiter is a failed star or a Superplanet.

Artist's impression of Juno flying to Jupiter

NASA scientists are primarily interested in the composition of the gas giant. Scott Bolton, the principal investigator for the Juno mission, put it most pithily:

It got the majority of the leftovers after the sun formed. We want the ingredient list.

Juno will orbit the Sun for two years, close to the Earth’s orbit, before using the Earth’s gravity as a slingshot to shoot itself farther out. It is expected to reach Jupiter by 2016. Juno will draw power from the three solar panels provided on it, in contrast to the use of nuclear power for Galileo and Voyager.

The path to be taken by Juno

The mission hopes to know more about what lies beneath the surface of Jupiter, especially the core. Juno is also expected to be the pioneer for more deep space missions, especially after the Space Shuttle Program expired a few days back.

As the date nears, we will bring you the exact time of the launch and more relevant details. Bookmark this site for more.

Russia Launches Giant Radio Telescope; Set To Be The Largest Ever, Beating Hubble

Russia finally launched its giant radio telescope, the Spektr-R,  into space using a Zenit rocket  from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhastan on the 18th July. No word about the operational status has been officially released.

Model the fully open satellite, displayed before launch (Photo: Astro Space Center)

The planned elliptic orbit has a perigee of 1000 km and apogee of 330,000 km. The observatory holds a giant 10 meter wide antenna and is expected to be a part of the International Radioastron Astronomy Project. The Astro Space Center of Moscow, a part of the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, is coordinating the Radioastron mission. The project is a focal point of international co-operation with 20 nations contributing to it, including the United States.

Tricks up its giant sleeve

The claim to fame of this giant telescope is the facility of interferometry using ground based radio telescopes. In size, it is less than a tenth of the largest radio telescopes on Earth, but due to a technique called interferometry’, the telescope is expected to give resolution higher than Hubble  in the radio frequencies.

Radio telescopes are laid out in a particular fashion on a wide area. They separately capture radio waves and then transmit this signal to a central computer, which adjusts for time delays and forms a coherent picture of what the entire field is seeing. This is done by adding’ or interfering’ the differing signals; thus the technique is called interferometry’.

Radio telescopes have another trick up their sleeve a Nobel Prize winning trick. They use the Earth’s rotation in increasing their effective aperture. Signals from a radio source are sampled from different baseline orientations that change as the Earth rotates. This data is then fed into a computer, which uses Fourier analysis in order to obtain information equivalent to a conventional telescope with the equivalent large aperture. This is what gives the name Aperture Synthesis’.


Radioastron will be hoping to use interference with numerous ground based telescopes in order to create a giant effective telescope. It hopes to have a resolution of 7 microarcseconds, which is more than 10,000 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. On the list of things that Radioastron plans to look at, is a black hole in the center of galaxy M87 (or Virgo A) and different pulsars.

The Spektr-R launches on Zenit rockets from the Kazakhastan Cosmodrome (Photo: Roscosmos)

Though this is not the first attempt at earth-space telescope interferometry the Japanese attempted such a thing with HALCA, 15 years ago this is certainly the biggest. This one blows even Hubble out of the water.

Osama Killed: Technology That Got The World’s Most Wanted Man – Part 2

It was a battle fought using information, rather than just bullets. The greatest challenge the US administration faced in getting to Bin Laden and breaking his global network was the lack of information, not so much the firepower. Now, with Osama bin Laden dead, we can track the steps and count a few of the technological advances that led to him being eventually hunted down. We’ve considered five technologies connected to his death. We considered two in the first part. Here we continue our journey through the last two.

Continued from Part 1

DNA Tests

The US administration has been long preparing for an event like this and had already collected hundreds of blood samples from relatives of Bin Laden. This was to get a definitive DNA match. The face-recognition software used gave a 95% confidence that the body was indeed that of Bin Laden, which is pretty high, especially after the mutilation during the encounter. DNA tests gave a 99.9% certainty of the identity of the body, which basically seals the deal.

It is indeed an ironic twist of fate for those who were reminded of 9/11, since bodies of many victims were identified by using blood samples from close relatives or from hair from the comb used. In any case, the match is definitive.


A 33-year old computer programmer became an instant hit worldwide due to his tweets. Shoaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual) unwittingly live-blogged the operations as he perceived them, having moved to Abbottabad a few days earlier in order to escape the urban bustle, and earned more than 14000 Twitter followers in the process. He started off with an innocent:

Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).

The first few tweets were laced with jokes, but they grew grim. One of the earliest people to understand that this wasn’t normal, he tweeted:

The few people online at this time of the night are saying one of the copters was not Pakistani.

His definitive 36th tweet said:

Osama Bin Laden killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Keith Urbanh (@KeithUrbanh), claiming to be the chief-of-staff of Donald Rumsfeld, ex-US defense secretary, tweeted

I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn!

(P.S.: The account no longer seems to exist. A retweet exists, however.)

This came about an hour before President Obama’s official statement.

Facebook already has an Osama Bin Death Videoscam circulating.


It is irony on both ends. The US’s high-tech methods were foiled by the low-tech techniques used by the militants, since cyber tracking or telephonic interception became impossible. However, it was also this same low-tech that blew their cover. US officials triangulated the compound after it looked suspicious because of the lack of any sort of electronic noise, inspite of being a sprawling complex, estimated at a million dollars. There were no cables, or Net connection or any other tractable electronic communication device emissions. The CIA were sure of their targets.