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By Sara Bridges
Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences in the world; even the cavemen saw that the patterns and shapes of the stars were predictable and cyclical. But what about you, have you ever looked up at the night sky to see all the millions of stars twinkling back down at you? On first sight it can just look like a mass of stars with no meaning or direction, but if you look again you will notice that these stars make particular patterns which are known as constellations. There are eighty eight modern constellations recognised by The International Astronomical Union and each of these constellations have a name and an accompanying legend that makes looking at the night sky one of the most interesting and satisfying things you can do for both adults and children of all ages. People throughout the ages have used constellations for a whole manner of different reasons. Some farmers used them to help them determine when to plant and harvest in the days before there were calendars. The shapes that the stars seemed to form made it very easy for early farmers to remember their positions in the sky and therefore helped to them recognise when certain seasons were approaching. When they could see Orion high in the sky they knew it was winter, the ancient Egyptians prepared for the flooding of the Nile when they saw Sirius rise with the sun. In South Africa the Pleiades star cluster was known as the ‘digging stars’, when they reappeared in the early morning sky it was time to start digging the ground in order to plant crops. So now fasten your seatbelt, kick and relax while we take a jouney together through space and time and look at some of the mysteries, wonders and beauties of our night sky.
Frank Drake (above) was born in 1930 in Chicago. He is an astromomer and astrophysist. He is responsible for SETI and The Drake Equation. I learnt about the Drake Equation after looking up at the early morning sky and seeing the Milky Way. The Milky Way is the centre our galaxy and it really is something to see. But for all it’s vastness it is only one of a billion galaxies in the observable universe. All the stars that are visible with the naked eye are part of the Milkyway.The milky light that you can see is caused by light from other stars in the galaxy that are not visible to the naked eye. The Drake equation was devised by Frank Drake in 1962 and is used to estimate the number of extraterrestial civilisations in our Milkyway galaxy. It is used in the “search for Extraterristial intelligence” also known as SETI. Frank devised this equation in readiness for a meeting called the Green Bank meeting in Virgina.The meeting’s members were known as the order of the Dolphin and they included people like astronomers, scientists and industrial leaders.
When I was a young girl, I had a fascination with the stars and planets. It started one evening in the back garden when I looked up and saw three stars in a row. I asked my dad and he told me that was it was the constellation Orion and the three stars were his belt. That explanation of Orion and his belt lead to a thousand other questions about Orion and all the other constellations in the sky, many of which I will cover here in my article. At eleven years old my head was spinning with the night sky and the universe. My dad bought me books on the subjects and would take me out each evening to watch the sky armed with nothing more than a plastic sky map and a pair of binoculars. That same year at school there was a creative writing competition and we had to submit an article about any topic of our choice. I do not remember exactly what the prize consisted of but I do remember that there were book tokens, a certificate and a small cash prize. Most of my friends were writing about birds, flags of the world, football, motor racing, so I decided I would submit an article on Astronomy. I went home with my assignment and began preparing an article that covered pretty much a lot of the things I am going to cover here but from an eleven year olds point of view. My dad bought me a telescope and I prepared a paper on my passionate new hobby. I remember the headmaster didn’t like it and there was some controversy over whether I had prepared the article myself as it was a subject that he deemed “unusual for an eleven year to take an interest in” After a few words from my parents, my article was submitted. I won second prize, the head said he couldn’t accept it as first prize because in his opinion it was too well written and it wouldn’t have been fair on the other kids whose ideas were not as “out there” . My parents were unhappy with his reasoning but I was only eleven and I didn’t see what the problem was with second prize, I’d won a book token and an award. Job done!! It wasn’t until I was older that I understood why my parents were upset with the headmaster. Choosing a interest that was different and writing about it shouldn’t be hushed up, played down or subdued. So with that in mind I now present to you my unadulterated, article on astronomy. Not the article that was done by me the innocent eleven year old who couldn’t see past the book token but by me the writer, written from the heart for your pleasure to share with you and encourage you in a science and a hobby that fascinates many people the world over.
The equation is only compatible to intelligent civillisations within our galaxy. It doesn’t apply to intelligence outside of our Galaxy because they are too far away to be able to detect their radio signals. The Drake equation is:
N= The number of civilisations in the Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are dectable. R* = The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life. fp = The fraction of those stars whose with planetary systems. ne = The number of planets per solar system with an environment suitable for life. fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent ife actually emerges fc = The fraction of civilisations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space. L = The length of time such civilisations release detectable signals into space.
To take an interest in astronomy you don’t need to invest in a lot of expensive kit, a good pair of binoculars or a telescope will suffice. To start with you can even try with just some warm clothes and the naked eye. It takes a little while for your eyes to become accustomed to the dark. What I find helps if you are only using the naked eye, is to lie on your back on the floor (preferably in your back garden or yard, and stare up at the sky. At first you may not see much, the brightest stars and planets becoming apparent first, but then after a few minutes you will notice many thousands more coming into view as your eyes adjust. The sky has been used as a navigational tool for thousand of years and if you know your constellations and the positions they are in at certain times of the year then you will never become lost and will always find your way home. Although it is not a method to get yourself home after a night in the pub.
Constellations for Navigation.
It is said that using the sky for navigation allowed for the discovery of America, whether you choose to believe the
official version of that discovery or whether you believe that it was discovered long before Columbus set foot there, it was very probable that they used the stars for direction. It is very easy to find Polaris (The North Star), it is very close to Ursa Minor also known as the Little Dipper (or in my house as a child “the little milk pan because it looks like a saucepan). Sailors could work out their longitude and latitude by looking at how high Polaris was in the sky.
Some of the most famous voyagers who used this method of Navigation were the Polynesians. These people were sea faring folk with strong and developed navigation skills. They navigated thousands of miles through the Pacific Islands and colonised islands by making long canoe voyages. They did not have any instruments to help them navigate, they used a method called Wayfaring which meant they used the position of the stars, sun, moon, winds and even direction of bird flight to tell them which way to go.
It’s been said that the original numbers that Drake used in the equation back in 1961 were R = 10 fp = 0.5 ne = 2.0 fl = 1.0 fi = 0.01 fc = 0.01 L = 10000 Therefore when you put Drakes’s numbers into the equation you get the answer that there are 10 broadcasting civilisations within our galaxy. Makes you think doesn’t it!! The probability that mankind is the only intelligent life within our own milky way galaxy or indeed within the Universe, is quite a low probabilty. The Universe must be teaming with life. You only have to go pond dipping to see the hundreds of thousands of diverse living creatures within only a simple pond. Compare that with a Galaxy that is said to be infinite.
The Polynesians built their canoes and developed a compass called the Hawaiian star compass. It had thirty two equidistant directional points around the horizon and each point was 11.25 degrees from the next. (11.25 x 32 degress = 360 degrees). The four directional points each have traditional Hawaiian names. East is called Hikina (meaning arriving or coming) where the sun and stars arrive at the Horizon. West is called Komohana (meaning entering) where the sun and stars enter the horizon. North is called Akua South is called Hema. The four cardinal directional points divide the circle of the horizon into four quadrants, which have been given names associated with wind directions: Ko’olau is the NE quadrant, named for the windward side of the islands, the direction from which the NE trades, the most constant of the Hawaiian winds, blow.
The Wow Signal In July 1977, The Big Ear radio telescope at SETI picked up a strong narrowband radio signal coming from the direction of the constellation saggitarius, over 200 light years away. There is no known natural phenomon to explain it. The signal looks like it could be a sound of intelligent life. It lasts for 72 seconds. When the scientist Jerry Ehman first saw the printout he wrote down one word “WOW” But the wow signal has never been heard again. It remains one of astronomy’s most inexplicable moments.
Looking at life in a pond. Comparing the size of a pond with the Universe, is it logical thinking to assume we are the only life form within our Galaxy?
The original print out of the Wow! signal, complete with Jerry Ehman’s famous exclamation, is preserved by the Ohio Historical Society.
Apophis is an asteriod that will visit Earth on Friday 13 April 2029. Passing within the orbits of TV satellites, Apophis will be as bright as a star visible to the nakes eye. The close approach will be seen in Europe and Africa and there is a 0.8% probability that Apophis will impact Earth. Apophis might pass through a gravitational keyhole causing a future impact on 13 April 2036, an impact equivalent to 1,480 megatons of TNT. (The impact that created the Barringer crater was 8 megatons) Apophis will return again to visit the Earth and there will be a 1 in 250,000 chance of an impact in 2036. It will again threaten the Earth in 2037, and an impact would create at least 3,000 square kilometres of damage. A space probe is being sent to attach itself to Apophis, it will become visible to astronomers in 2011. It is paramount that we are able to track Apophis on its orbit as if there is any deviation in the passby in 2029, we must know acurately whether that could affect the second passby in 2036. So the next few years are going to be very interesting for space exploration and asteriod watchers.
Malanai is the SE quadrant, named for “a gentle breeze” (PE) associated with Kailua O’ahu (SE part of the island) and Koloa, Kaua’i (S by E part of the island); on a wind map of Pukapuka, two “Malangai” winds blow from the SE... Each quadrant contains seven directional points and houses with the following names. The names were devised by Nainoa Thompson, the first Hawaiian in over 500 years to practice long-distance, open-ocean navigation without instruments. La: “Sun”; the sun stays in this house for most of the year as it moves back and forth between its southern limit at the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5 degrees S) at Winter Solstice to its northern limit at the Tropic of Cancer (23.5 degrees N) at Summer Solstice. ‘Aina: “Land”; This house between 17 degrees and 28 degrees on the horizon from east and west can be remembered because Hawai’i (‘Aina, or Land) is at 21 degrees N latitude and Tahiti (‘Aina, or Land) is at 18 degrees S latitude. Nalani: Named for the brightest star in this house, Ke ali’i o kona i ka lewa (Canopus), which rises in Nalani Malanai and sets in Nalani Kona. Na Leo: “The Voices,” referring to the voices of the stars speaking to the wayfinder. Haka: “Empty”; named for the relatively empty skies around the north and south celestial poles; Kamakau say the names of these areas are Uliuli (“deep, dark blue”) and Lipo (“deep, dark night”). I got my information about the name of these houses from Will Kyselka’s Ocean in Mind 96-97.
Current size estimated at 100 to 120 metres in diameter, if Apophis should impact the Earth we can expect an impact equivalent to 1,480 tons of TNT!
A man named Roy A Tucker who is an amateur astronomer from Tuscon Ariziona, discov ered Apophis using no more than a mediocre telescope and CCTV. He has also discovered 223 other astroids in space. He alerted NASA of his find and this big asteroid was named Apophis. NASA has calculated that Apophis will pass us by so close it will be visible to the naked eye. If these calculations are out by even a fraction, then it would be possible for this asteroid to be pulled into the Earth’s gravitational pull and into our atmosphere and would impact somewhere around Nicaragua in South America. There are alreadu plans to fire a nuclear missile at Apophis in 2028 Apophis is the name of the devil in ancient Egyptian mythology. It is the strongest and most demonic spirit known to the acient pharos. He has been described as the challenger of light, which menat that all light would be diminished if Apophis was to have his way on planet Earth. Apophis is in fact the Greek name for the Egyptian mythological creature “Apep”; the symbol of all things evil, It is chaotic in Egyptian culture.
The Polynesians used the star compass by using the horizon as a compass and learning which house on the star compass the stars rose and set in. The stars rise in the East and set in the west just like the sun does. So by recognising a star as it rises or sets and in which house this occurs gives you a directional point which you can steer your canoe and go in the direction you want. Although this form of navigation is not an exact science, knowing something about it and how to apply it could be the difference between life and death and I would like to give you a quick and easy lesson of how to use this skill, should you ever find yourself in a situation where you may need it. Whilst I am sure the majority of readers will not find themselves alone on a boat and lost at sea, it is possible you may lose your way or your camp if for example you were out hiking or camping and using the celestial bodies can help you find your way back to where you need to be. Most people who are out hiking or camping will have a map with them but what if there is no compass? How would you know which is North, South, East or West? The sun always rises in the East and sets in the West. When the sun reaches it highest point at noon, its position is south in the Northern Hemisphere. The North Star or Polaris is positioned in a northerly direction. It is not the brightest star in the sky as some people believe it is, but it is important in navigation because its position is stationary and therefore if you follow it, you know you are heading north. If you look up and you can’t recognise Polaris because all you can see is a mass of twinkling dots, it is very easy to locate by looking for other constellations such as the Ursa Major (The big Dipper or Great Bear). I can always spot this huge constellation by simply looking for an enormous saucepan.
Apophis was portrayed as a snake of unbelievable size and length. As he was the personification of darkness, and chaos. Apep’s natural enemy was Ma’at, or truth and light. Apep was believed to exist from Egypt’s era of the Middle Kingdom onward. The belief survived later into Coptic Christianity, which was influenced greatly by the Roman Catholic traditions. Thus “Aphoph” has become the name of Apep in the Egyptian Coptic religions. Every year, a ritual called the “Banishing of Apep” would be held by the priests of Ra. They would take an effigy of Apep and in the center of the temple they would pray that all the wickedness in Egypt would go into the effigy. Then they would trample the effigy, crush it, beat it with sticks, pour mud on it, and eventually burn and destroy it. In this way, the power of Apep would be curtailed for another year. Below: Roy A Tucker, who discovered Apophis, he was raised in Memphis. In 1966, he became a member of Memphis Astronomical Society and received a Master’s degree in Scientific Instrumentation from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Then there is Cassiopeia which is another easy one to find because she looks like a W. Before being competent at using the night sky to find your way, it is important to have a basic knowledge of the constellations and their positions and I want to start with some of the most recognisable ones in the sky. The most famous navigational stars are the North Star, (Polaris) and the Southern Cross. The North Star is a part of the constellation Ursa Minor, which is also known as the Little Dipper. The Southern Cross is a constellation of four stars called Crixa, two of which point towards the celestial south pole. Let’s begin by looking at Ursa Major. It is one of the easiest constellations to find and a good starting point for locating other constellations. It looks like a large pan and if you follow the pan bowl upwards you will locate the North star. Now if you follow the curve of the pan handle downwards you will find the star Arcturus which is part of the constellation Bootes, then imagine a hole in the bottom of the saucepan, all the milk inside would drip directly onto the constellation Leo and the bright star in this constellation is Regulus.
Another good constellation to use to help you locate the others is Orion. Orion appears in the winter and is one of the brightest constellations in the sky. Good indicators of Orion are the three stars that form his belt and you can use this belt as a pointer for other stars. If you follow the line of the belt you will arrive at the star Sirius which is the brightest star in the night sky and forms part of the constellation Canis Major.
If you follow the line of the belt to the right you will come to the star Aldebaran which is the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus. Now if you follow the line through Taurus you will arrive at a cluster of stars called the Pleiades.
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun and is the largest planet in our Solar system. It has been known since prehistoric times as the wandering star. If Jupiter were hollow you could fit the Earth inside it more than 1000 times over. It also contains two and a half times the mass of all the other planets combined. It has a mass of 1.9 x 1027kg and it is 142,800 kilometres (88,736 miles) across the equator. Jupiter was first visited by Pioneer 10 in 1973 and then by Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, Voyager 2 and Ulysses. The spacecraft Galileo orbited Jupiter for eight years and it is still regularly observed by the Hubble Space Telescope. Jupiter is a gas planet and probably does not have a solid surface. What you would see when looking at this planet is the tops of clouds high in it’s atmosphere. Jupiter contains 62 known satellites. The four largest are Callisto, Europa, Ganymede and Io. They were named after Galileo Galilei and are collectively known as the Galilean moons. Galileo observed them as long ago as 1610.The German astronomer Simon Marius claimed to have seen the moons around the same time but he did not publish his observations and so Galileo is given the credit for their discovery.
It’s not so difficult to start identifying more and more constellations. A good piece of kit that will help immensely is a sky map and you don’t need to rush out and buy an expensive one. You can find them on the internet and you can download them for free each month and print them off. When I was doing my school project I had this fantastic circular sky map of the northern hemisphere on one side and the southern on the other. You could move the plastic cover on it to match the month of the year and seasons and it would show you the position of sky. But if you don’t happen to have a posh rotating plastic one, you can always try here....http://www.skymaps.com/ downloads.html”
Jupiter has rings like Saturn’s, but much fainter and smaller.. They were totally unexpected and were only discovered when two of the Voyager 1 scientists insisted that after traveling 1 billion km it was at least worth a quick look to see if any rings might be present. Everyone else thought that the chance of finding anything was nil, but there they were. It was a major coup. They have since been imaged in the infra-red from ground-based observatories and by Galileo. Unlike Saturn, Jupiter’s rings are dark. They’re probably composed of very small grains of rocky material. Unlike Saturn’s rings, they seem to contain no ice. In Roman mythology, Jupiter was the king of Heaven and earth and of all the Olympian gods. He was also known as the god of Justice. He was named king of the gods in the special meeting that followed his overthrow of the god Saturn and the Titans. However in Greek mythology Jupiter was known as Zeus and he received control of the skies in a game to divide the world among his brothers., Poseidon and hades. rebeled against Zeus were struck down by thunder and hail. His weapons included lightening, snow, hail and thunder.
On first glance they may look a little complicated, it takes time and patience to be able to recognise stars and remember their names but one of the most important things about using a star map is to be aware of your own position. People who are in the Northern Hemisphere will be looking a different sky to those who live in the Southern Hemisphere. It also depends on the time of night and the time of year, as the Earth rotates but the stars do not. So the sky will look different at different times of the night and day. Polaris will always be situated at the north of the map, so it is important that you hold the map up at the sky with the north point facing north. In this position the map should look exactly like the sky and is a good place to start familiarising yourself with the position of the stars. With patience and practice you will be able to eventually read the sky without the star map. Recently while I was attending one of Chris’s spacecamps, we were introduced to an amazing piece of software that has certainly come a long way since my little plastic sky map. The software is called “Starry Night” The version we were shown was Starry Night Pro but there are other versions available such as Enthusiast, space and Astronomy and for the serious astronomer there is Pro Plus. Starry night transforms your computer screen into a virtual observatory. You select the nearest city to where you are and set the date and it brings a live view of the night sky onto your screen and names all the planets, stars, constellations, and satellites that are in view at that very moment you are looking at it. You can play around with the dates and travel in time from 99,999 BC all the way to 99,999AD and view how the sky looks at any date in between. You can get more information about the starry night software either from Chris Everard or the starry night website at http://www.starrynight.com” So when is a good time to go out star gazing? It’s important to find the right time and place to do it as this will have a big impact on what you can see. After sunset is best and as the sky becomes darker more stars become visible. One of the best times to go outside star gazing is when there is a new moon as this is one of the times you will see the most stars. I love to view the sky at round 4am because you can see the misty Milky Way and Jupiter. Choosing the right place is also important. If you were to do it in the city, your vision may be impaired by the bright lights and objects, so the best place to go is somewhere a little remote without too many street lamps.
How to use a star map
Zeus was born to Cronus and Rhea. They had several children including Hestia, demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon. Cronus swallowed them all as soon as they were born as he had learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overthrown by his own son as he had once overthrown his own father. But when Zeus was about to be born, his mother devised a plan to save her son. Rhea gave birth to Zeus in Crete and handed Cronus a rock wrapped in swaddling cloths which he swallowed. Rhia hid Zeus in a cave called Mt Ida and he was brought up by nymphs. When Zeus was a man he forced Cronus to disgorge first the stone and then his siblings in reverse order of swallowing. Then Zeus released the brothers of Cronus, The Gigantes, The Hecatonchires and the cyclopes from their dungeon in Tartarus. As a token of their appreciation, the Cyclopes gave him thunder and the thunderbolt and lightening which had previously been hidden from him by Gaia. Together Zeus and his brothers and sisters along with the Gigantes, Hecatonchires and Cyclopes overthrew Cronus and the other Titans in a combat called the Titanomchy. The defeated Titans were then cast into a shadowy underworld region known as Tartarus. Atlas, one of the Titan’s that fought against Zeus, was punished by having to hold up the sky
You don’t have to drive to the top of a remote hillside to do it, your back garden with all the house lights off should be suffice to start with. If you are just starting out with this hobby or you just want to try it, there is no need to start buying expensive pieces of equipment. Your bare eyes will do to look for constellations, shooting stars and planets in the night sky. There were no telescopes in the ancient world and the star gazers in those days managed to put the constellations together with only their eyes. If you decide that this hobby is for you, you can always invest in a good pair of binoculars, they are especially good for looking at the dimmer stars. For the more avid star gazers there is the telescope. They come at all kinds of prices and some of them will even enable you to see the ice caps on Mars, the Rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter!!
Sky watching is a wonderful hobby for adults and children alike. It opens up a whole new wrorld of imagination and fantastic learning.
www.spacecamps.net Winter and Summer 2011
The type of telescope that you need depends mostly on the observing you want to do. Many amateur astronomers own more than one telescope, each specialised for a different type of observing. But if you are a beginner, you might want to look for a telescope that you can use for several different activities. Remember that there are three basic types of telescopes: * Refractors - a lens is the primary device for gathering light. * Reflectors - a mirror is the primary device for gathering light. * Compound telescopes or catadioptrics - a combination of lenses and mirrors is used to gather light.
There are a couple of hundred billion stars just in our own Milky Way Galaxy, so the odds are good that we are not alone in the universe. Left: Small Jam jar teaming with life after a quick dip in a pond. After the battle with the Titans, Zeus shared the world with his elder brothers Poseidon and Hades by drawing lots. Zeus got the sky and air, Poseidon the waters and Hades the underworld. The ancient Gaia could not be claimed; she was left to all three, each according to their own capabilities, which explains why Poseidon was the earth-shaker (the god of Earthquakes) and Hades claimed the humans that died. Is there other life within our Solar System? Given it’s vastness it would seem morelikey that we are not alone.
Constellation names, myths and legends.
There is so much more to star gazing than just being able to read the sky and recognise constellations. As I mentioned earlier there are eighty eight recognised constellations and the more familiar these stars and constellations become the more names you will come across. Most if not all of these constellations have fantastic names and with these names follow legend and mythology. Many people believed the Gods lived in the Heavens and they created the stars to tell stories. The names of our constellations came from the Greeks and they named them after their mythological heroes. Which means that with each constellation there follows an amazing story. I want to have a look and tell you about some of my own personal favourites.
The Milky Way.
If you look up on a dark, clear night, away from city lights, you may see a wide band of faint light stretching above you, stiller than a cloud and glittering with densely packed stars. Translated from the Ancient Greek as “Milky Way” for resembling spilled milk on the sky, that band of light is the center of our galaxy. The Milky Way has the shape of a spiral, It’s on one of these spiraling arms close to the center that the sun and Earth are located. At 100,000 light years across with pockets of clouds and gas and around 400 billion stars rotating around the galaxy’s centre. We revolve around the centre every 250 million years. But there is a super monster lurking at the heart of our Milky Way. In the Galatic Centre which is surrounded by 200-400 billion stars lies an enormous black hole called Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* for short.
Orion, was a great hunter and he was the son of Neptune who was the god of the sea. He was the most handsome man in Greece and the women wanted to be with him and the men wanted to be like him. He was out hunting one day when he met a woman called Artemis. She asked him if he would like to go hunting with her and he agreed. They became good friends and over time that friendship grew into love but Artemis had taken a vow of chastity and her twin brother Apollo did not approve of their relationship, he didn’t want to see his sister break her vow. Orion was swimming in the sea one day when Apollo saw him, immediately he ran to find Artemis and challenged her to an archery contest, asking her to hit the speck on the horizon (which was Orion in the sea) she agreed and she fired an arrow and hit the mysterious speck.
She wondered what it was and ran to the beach curious but when she arrived she saw it was Orion’s body with her arrow through his chest and realised she had been tricked by her brother.
The centre is packed with stars and in the 1930’s a physicist called Karl Jansky began to take an interest in this central bulge. He was employed by Bell Telephone and they had asked him to investigate reasons of static that may interfere with it’s radio voice transmissions. Jansky scanned the airwaves using a radio receiver. He found a signal that he couldn’t explain, it sounded like steam and he managed to narrow it down to the constellation sagittarius in the direction of the Galatic Centre. News of his findings escaped and Jansky had to assure the public that it wasn’t aliens seeking contact and that was all that was said about this finding for the next thirty years. Years later in the 1960’s Erick Becklin started to invesigate. At a time when Quasars had just been discovered, which were bright beacons of light coming from deep space. Erick wanted to know were they coming from the Galactic Centre and what powered them? First he located our neighbouring galaxy Andromeda which from our position can be seen in full view. However, we live inside our galaxy and so Becklin had to find a way to see into it’s centre. He managed to find a device that reads infra red light and with wave lengths similar to the distance between dust and particles. Using this instrument he was able to position of our Galatic Centre.This now opened the path for future astronomers to start probing for more details.
She ran to find Asclepius who was the God of Medicine but he couldn’t revive Orion, so Artemis lifted Orion’s body up and put him in the stars so that when ever she looked up at the sky she would be able to see her good friend. Another version of the legend of Orion was that he was the son of Neptune and he had inherited his mother’s hunting skills and had become very big for his boots. He thought he was so good that he vowed he was going to kill every animal on Earth. Mother Earth retaliated and made a huge scorpion which Orion was not able to defeat. The scorpion killed Orion and Artemis pleaded with the God Zeus to put him up in the heavens, eventually Zeus gave in and both Orion and the scorpion were put up into the sky as constellations, the scorpion now better known as Scorpio.
Sirius. (Canis Major)
This leads me to Sirius who is said to be Orion’s dog. Sirius is known as the Dog Star, this is because it forms part of the constellation Canis Major (meaning big dog). It is the brightest star in the sky and it is the closest star to the earth especially in the summer which is where we get the saying “dog days of summer” Canis Major is seen as one of the two hunting dogs of Orion, The other being Canis Minor (little dog). Again there are several stories of the myth of Orion and his dog. The story tells us that after Apollo had tricked Artemis into killing Orion with her arrow, Orion’s hunting dog Sirius was so overcome with grief for his master he would not stop looking for him. So when Orion was placed in the heavens for Artemis to be able to look at whenever she wanted, she placed Sirius his faithful hunting companion at his heels so they could be together as master and dog forever. However in Egyptian Mythology, Sirius was named the Dog Star after their God Osiris whose head in pictures often resembled that of a dog. Sirius was the most important star in ancient Egyptian astronomy. The first night that Sirius was seen every year was in July and this became the start of the Egyptian New Year and it was celebrated with a festival called Sopdet. When Sirius
The Paranal Observatory in in Northern Chile Reinhardt Genzel and his team of German astronomers, who are based at the Max Plant Institute for Extraterrestial Physics in Germany have spent 16 years mapping out the journys of 28 stars orbiting the very centre of our Milky Way Galaxy. They began in 1990 with a goal to pin point the location of Sagittarius A star and find out what it is. The star is too small to see at 26,000 light years away so they studied the orbits of the stars around it. After studying the data they were able to calculate the speeds of the stars. and the position of Sagittaruis A* They also calculated it’s gravitation pull and discovered that it’s mass was appoximatley 300 millions times of our sun. This was strong but not conclusive evidence that it is a black hole. Both Reinhardt and Becklin wanted to be able to look through the gas and clouds of the Milky way and prove the existence of black holes. It was an extraordinary event that brought them that proof. In 2002 the German team was making observations with the extra large telescope “Array” at the Paranal Observatory in Northern Chile. One of the stars they had been following called S2 suddenly swerved towards the Galatic Centre speeding up to approx 3 million kilometers per hour, coming very close to the possible black hole. If there had been a cluster of stars in there, S2’s path and light would have been distorted due to turbulence. But it didn’t and this proved conclusively that Sagittarius A* is a black hole.
appeared in the night sky each year, the Nile would begin to flood and bring fertility to the land. The ancient Egyptians started to connect these two events together. That of the festival of Sopdet and the flooding of the Nile and so Sopdet became the Goddess of the fertility that came with Nile Floods. The arrival of Sirius and the floods also symbolised the Egyptian New Year so she also became the Goddess of The New Year. The star Sirius is hidden by the sun’s glare for up to 70 days close to 4 July. The ancient Egyptians refused to bury their dead during the 70 days Sirius was hidden from view, because it was believed Sirius was the doorway to the afterlife, and the doorway was thought to be closed during this yearly period. This is why it took seventy days to embalm the dead while Sirius could not be seen in the sky.
Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (The Great Bear and The Small Bear) also known as The Big Dipper and The Plough.
Ursa Major is the most well known constellation in the sky. We looked at it earlier as a stepping stone to find other constellations in the night sky. Quite close to her is Ursa Minor. One of the legends surrounding this constellation being that once a nymph called Callisto had an affair with Zeus. Callisto was training to be a hunter with Artemis (Orion’s old pal). Zeus would watch Callisto and one day in an effort to get near her he disguised himself as Artemis.
The black hole, is thought to be 26,000 light years from Earth and four million times bigger than the Sun. Black holes are objects whose gravity is so strong that nothing including light can escape them. It is said that black holes play an active part in the evolution of the universe. Giant black holes are found at the centres of almost every latge galaxy, it is also said that the bigger a galaxy is, the bigger it’s black hole which would indicate that they there is a relationship between the two. When matter falls into a black hole it heats up to millions of degrees. The more matter that falls into it, the more it pushes out. This can have the effect of limiting the growth of a galaxy, in effect putting an end to star growth. In 2001 scientists were were working with the new Chandra X-ray and they pointed it at sagittarius A* at the moment it errupted They saw flares which occur when matter builds up at the Event Horizon before falling into it.The flares appear to be showing us that our Black Hole and Galaxy have settled into a period of sleep. But one day they will wake up. Astronomers in Antartica are trying to ascertain when the Milky Way’s black hole will start eating again. Data from their telescope has shown that there could be a disaster in progress. A huge ring of gas is looming around the Galatic Centre and when it gathers the same mass equal to around 300 million suns, it will reach a breaking point. It will errupt with star formation before falling down into the ever hungry black hole. As the cloud enters it, the black hole will errupt and become visible across most of the universe. Based on this, it is thought that events like this occur once every 400 million years.
Not long after their secret was out Callisto was disgraced and banished from the hunting class. She had a son called Arcas alone in the woods. Years later, Hera, Zeus’ wife found out. In order to protect Callisto he turned her into a bear. As a bear Callisto ran into the woods to hide and as she did so she bumped into her son Arcas who was hunting. Arcas Raised his arrow ready to slay the bear, Zeus had to save Callisto again and he turned her son into a bear also and picked them both up by their tails and launched them into the sky. As he did this the tails of the bears stretched and you can see these two in the form of Ursa Major (Great Bear) and Ursa Minor (little Bear)
Bootes. (The Herdsman) pronounced Bohoh-tease
There are several different legends surrounding this constellation. One of them is about Icarius who was a Greek shepherd. The God Dionysus taught Icarius how to make wine and Icarius was very excited about his discovery and wanted to share some of his brew with the other shepherds. He told the shepherds to mix the wine with water but they wouldn’t listen and guzzled the wine down neat. The next day of course they were very sick with hang overs but they thought Icarius had tried to poison them and so they killed him. When Dionysus heard about this he turned his friend Icarius into the Constellation Bootes and as I mentioned earlier, the brightest star in this constellation is called Arcturus, which I said you can find by following the
In 1975, Stephen Hawking calculated that once a black hole forms, it radiates energy and starts losing mass by giving off “Hawking radiation”. he has revised his belief that black holes destroy everything that falls on them. He now believes that black holes may allow information to get out. Reinhardt Genzel based at the Max Plant Institute for Extraterrestial Physics in Germany
The Chandra X-Ray. First comissioned in 2001
tail down of Ursa Major. The story also goes on with another twist, Icarius’ dog was stricken with grief at the death of his master and he ran home to find Icarius’ daughter Erigone. Erigone followed the dog to her father’s body and was so upset that she hung herself.
It’s not called spacecamps for nothing, but don’t worry camping in the South of France is 100% better than camping in Britain. Accomodation is allocated on a first come-first served basis. you’ll either be staying in our guesthouse or gites, in a tent or even a tipee. Get ready to enjoy clear skies and great french wine.
Day1- MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE.
The dog also died of a broken heart and so it is said that Dionysus turned them into constellations in the heavens out of respect for his friend. The dog who was called Maera became Canis Major or Canis minor (it’s not been defined which exactly) and the daughter became the constellation Virgo.
A guide to the night sky and the current UFO situation. with a film sceening followed by a BBQ dinner. After diner, a talk and demonstration of the Starry night software.
Day 2 - FILMING UFO’s
A guide to telescope, camerascopes, binoculars and nightvision. The latest hardware is discussed with emphasis on cost effective systems to monitor low earth objects. and UFO’s. Followed by BBQ dinner and sky watch using night-vision gear.
Day 3 - CROP CIRCLES AND UFO’s
The royal Family: Cassiopeia, Cepheus and Andromeda.
Cassiopeia is one of the easiest constellations in the night sky to spot. It is made up of five stars and looks like a giant W sitting in the sky. A lot of people in Arab cultures recognise this as a camel kneeling down. She sits with her daughter Andromeda, Perseus and her husband Cepheus and can be found opposite the big dipper. This beautiful constellation is most visible in November; however she can be seen all year round close to Polaris and spends six months of the year upside down. The constellation Cassiopeia contains two of the most luminous stars in the galaxy. The myth that surrounds this family was one of my favourite stories as a girl and if you like what you read here, then I can recommend the original film version of Clash of The Titans as this film also tells the story beautifully. Cassiopeia was queen and consort of King Cepheus in Ethiopia. They had a daughter called Andromeda. Cassiopeia
A special lecture and screening about the relationship between balls of light and the crop circle formations which they have been filmed making in Britain.
Day 4 - ANCIENT ASTRONAUTS.
Extraterrestrial life. Chris Everard presents a slideshow of alien photos and ET’s found in the archeological records of earth. Film screening, followed by BBQ dinner and UFO skywatch.
Day 5 - HUBBLE & FUTURE OF UFOLOGY.
The last lecture and film screening explores the latest discoveries from The Hubble, discusses dark matter, dark energy and wormholes, black holes and the likely future development of space-time travel. www.spacecamps.net
was a very vain queen, quite arrogant and always boasting about her beauty. She said that both her and her daughter were more beautiful than Poseidon’s nymphs, The Nereids. Poseidon wanted to punish Cassiopeia for this and he sent Cetus a rampant sea monster to wreak havoc and destruction along the coast of King Cepheus’ country. The only way that the King and Queen could stop his destruction of their country was to give their daughter Andromdeda to the sea monster. So they tied her to a rock as an offering to Cetus. In the meantime Perseus who had recently killed the Gorgon Medusa, was travelling back home on his flying horse Pegasus and on his way he saw the body of Andromeda tied to the rock and he fell in love with her. He immediately went to Queen Cassiopeia and her husband and asked them if could marry their daughter if he was able to rescue her before the sea monster ate her, Andromeda was already promised to her uncle Phineus, but Cassiopeia agreed to the request. Perseus rescued Andomeda and they returned to Ethiopia to marry. Cassiopeia and Cepheus began to arrange the wedding as promised but when the celebrations started Phineus had something to say about all this and he demanded his right to marry Andromeda as she had already been promised to him. Naturally family being family the King and Queen sided with Uncle Phineus and all three of them challenged Perseus. Perseus killed them by using the head of Medusa and after their deaths they were place in the sky, where Cassiopeia was placed upside down for half if the year as punishment for her arrogance and vanity.
GLIESE 581g Star System After 11 years of observations, astronomers in Hawaii have discovered a planet 20 light years away that is said to have a similar atmosphere and gravity to the Earth. They are also saying that there is a100% chance of life on this planet and it may contain water. This planet has been discovered only three years after another smaller planet was discovered orbiting the same star. The discovert was made at the W M Keck Observatories. Is this more concrete evidence that shows our universe is teaming with life and all in our back garden within the universe...the Milky Way. It has also been said that of all the similar systems in the Universe, up to 20% of them could sustain life. The planet is too small to be seen by a telescope due to its vast distance from us. In fact it would take us 20 years to make the journey there and 20 years back again. Scientists discovered the planet because just as with the case of Sagittarius A*, the Black hole at the centre of our Milky way, they noticed the gravitational wobbles in the stars that are the tell tale signs that show something is in orbit. The planet orbits a star in the constellation of Libra and it only takes 37 days to orbit it’s sun.
I want to look at Perseus separately; after all he was the hero of the story and wasn’t strictly related to the Cepheus Family. Our hero was an adventurer and he led a full life.
However one side of the planet is always facing its star and this means that this side would always be in constant daylight and the other side in constant darkness. Six planets have been found in orbit around Gliese 581 and just like our solar system, those planets have circular orbits. The age of this star sytem has not been discussed but just imagine, if life has not yet evolved on this planet, it’s going to have all the time in the universe to do so. Professor Steven Vogt, a professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UC Santra Cruez Said: “Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent. I have almost no doubt about it. The question wouldn’t be to defend that there is life at Gliese 581g … ‘the question,’ would be to demonstrate that there isn’t”
He killed the Medusa as we have already seen and he got the girl. He cleverly defeated Medusa by using a mirror so that he was able to see her without looking directly at her as one direct look at The Medusa would turn you to stone. He took off her head with his sword and it was from her blood that that the winged horse Pegasus was created. He was flying on Pegasus’ back when he found Andromeda tied to the rock waiting for Cetus to come and take her. After Perseus has defeated Cassiopeia, Cepheus and Phineus, he married Andromeda and they spent many happy years together until their deaths when they were put up in the sky by the sky gods. The second brightest star in this constellation is called Algol, which in Arabic means head of the ghoul or demon. It represents the head of The Medusa and every three days this star becomes much dimmer. After a few hours it brightens up again and this is because Algol is two stars that are going around each other. One of the stars is dimmer and larger than the other, when it passes in front Algol becomes dimmer and this gives
If the planet does sustain life it would be very useful if the aliens had extra muscles, due to the possibility the gravity is higher than that of the Earth. So if a normal earthling took a walk over there they would weigh three times as much as they do on the Earth. I guess another way around that Stephen Hawking has claimed that any would be to crawl on the floor civilisation with which humanity could communiand get around that way. cate is likely to be much older and more Gliese 581, the brightest object in technologically advanced than ours. So they this Nasa image from 2007, is would probably have the ability, and possibly the only 20 light years from Earth motive, to eradicate humanity and strip-mine and is one of our nearest our planet for parts. It would be safer not to neighbours actively broadcast our presence.
Do they really come in peace?
Cetus The constellation Cetus represents the Sea Monster of Poseidon. It is one of the largest constellations known. Because of this it can only be seen a few months of the year, from October to January. His head is a circle next to the constellation Taurus. It is also known as the whale and is situated along a region of the sky which is known as The Water with other water type constellations like Aquarius, Pisces and Eridanus.
The Constellations have provided people of all ages with the most amazing stories and legends. When you look up at the night sky you are not only looking at millions of stars, but also at many stories from the ancient world. There to be treasured and passed down through the generations.
Pictured above: Maria Orsic, a famous medium who became the leader of the Vril Gesellschaft. She was born in Vienna. She disapeared in 1945 and it said that she has gone to Aldebaran star system. In 1917 four members of the Vril society met in a cafe in Vienna. There was one woman and three men. The woman was a ‘spiritual medium’. They met in secret and nobody knew what the meeting was about. They discussed secret revelations, the coming of the new age, the Spear of Destiny, the magical violet black stone, and making contact with ancient peoples and distant worlds. Their source of power was the Black Sun, an infinite beam of light which, though invisible to the human eye, exists in antimatter. The Vril emblem became the Black Sun, a secret philosophy thousand of years old provided the foundation on which the occult practioners of the Third Reich would later build. The Black Sun symbol can be found in many Babylonian and Assyrian places of worship. They depicted the Black Sun - the godhead’s inner light in the form of a cross. This was not much different from the German’s Knight’s Cross. The woman allegedly channeled information from Aryan aliens living in Alpha Tauri, in the Aldebaran star system. These aliens had once visited Earth and settled in Sumeria. Vril is the shortening of “Vri-Il”, which in the ancient Sumerian language translates as “Like God” The Vril medium was a woman that called herself Sigrun. Sigrun is based on Sigrune, one of the Norse God Wotan’s nine daughters and also a Valkyrie.
Hercules. I want to finish off with my own personal favourite constellation myth, I would like to tell you about Hercules and his 12 labours. Hercules was a Demi-God and his father was Zeus and his mother was human. Hera was Zeus’ wife and she raised Hercules but when she realised that Hercules was not actually her son she became enraged with jealousy. After Hercules was married his step mother made him lose his mind and in his insanity he killed his wife and children. After awaking from this insanity he couldn’t believe what he had done and he prayed to the god Apollo for help. Apollo told him he would have to go to the King of Tyrins who was called Eurystheus and serve him for twelve years. He was told by Eurystheus he will have to serve twelve years of punishment in order to pay for these atrocities and perform twelve almost impossible tasks.
He had to: Slay the “Nemean Lion” and bring the skin of the lion which terrorised the hills of Nemea. Slay the 9-headed “Lernaean Hydra” who lived in the swamps near a place called Lerna. Capture the “Ceryneian Hind”, the Golden Hind of Artemis which was a deer that belonged to Diana the goddess of hunting and the Moon. Capture the “Erymanthian Boar” which lived on a mountain and would destroy everything that got in its way. Clean the “Augeas” Augean stables in a single day. These were the stables that belonged to King Augeas. Slay the “Stymphalian Birds”, a flock of birds that gathered at a lake near Stymphalos. Capture the “Cretan Bull” Steal the “Mares of Diomedes” which were man eating horses. Obtain the Girdle of the “Hippolyta” Amazon Queen. She was the queen of a tribe of women warriors. Obtain the Cattle of the Monster “Geryon”, Geryon was the son of Chrysaor and Callirrhoe. Chrysaor had sprung from the body of the Gorgon Medusa after Perseus beheaded her. Steal the Apples of the “Hesperides”. These were golden apples which belonged to Zeus and were guarded by a one hundred head dragon. Capture and bring back “Cerberus”, Cerberus was a beast who guarded the entrance to Hedes and prevented the living from entering the world of the dead.
It was after this that the society Thule was created. They went on to build the Vril Machine. A saucer shape interdimensional time travel machine. Their first flight was allegedly in 1934. It is also said that the Thule members were the first group to attempt the back-engineering of an extraterrestrial spacecraft. John Von Helsing, a german writer describes the discovery of a crashed saucer in the Black Forest in 1936 he said that this technology was taken and mixed with information the Vril Society had received through channeling and was made into a project called the Haunebu. German aircraft historian Henry Stevens states: "Haunebu was allegedly the first large flying saucer developed in Germany. According to plans that are said to have been obtained from classified German SS files, the Haunebu was approximately 75 feet in diameter and may have actually lifted off for the first time in August 1939, a few weeks before the outbreak of World War II. Thule is a Greek word meaning “land” The society was named after “Ultima Thule” which means the “Farthest Land”
Some people have alleged that the Skull & Bones society has ties to the Thule Society as well as the Vril Society, This would tie in with the Nazi memorabilia found in the campus building affectionatley known as The Tomb. This can only remain an assupmption though, without supporting evidence from the members themselves. Left: George W. Bush “It’s so secret I can’t talk about it.”
the effect that the star is winking. Algol is the white star in the right leg. Perseus is only visible in the northern hemisphere in the winter and visible in the southern hemisphere in the summer. If you look at the picture of Perseus, you can see the image of a man, with two feet that look like they are curling
The Thulists believed the Earth was hollow and spent years searching the entrances to the inner world where they could contact ancient civilisations that went underground and worship the Black Sun. Despite Thule’s business contacts and political connections, having laid the very foundations of Nazism by founding the German Workers Political Circle, German Workers Party and finally the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) by 1920, Thule’s ultimate goal was to prove that the Aryan race came from this farthest north land- possibly Atlantis, which was lost. Thule had high ranking Nazi party including Rudolf Hess and Alfred Rosenberg, Hermann Goering, Hein- upwards, it also looks like he is carrying something in his rich Himmler and of course hand, maybe some sort of weapon. Adolf Hitler. Power through anti-semitism and national socialism were the first steps of After performing these tasks he became a true hero and Thule’s sinister plan to subjugate the entire world by recon- is from here that the Greeks use the term Pathos which means necting with the Aryan race. With the Nazi Party in power to fame. in 1933 Thule and Vril were givJust as a side note to this myth, there is a fun fact, the en official backing to continue the disc development plans. constellation of Hercules contains a fuzzy cluster of stars Another Thulist, Dr. Krohn, designed the Nazi flag which called “The Great Globular Cluster”. It is a cluster of approx contrary to popular belief does not come from the Swastika 500, 000 old stars which are about 22,000 light years away. at all. The German HakenkBack in the seventies, scientists sent a message to this reuz (Hooked Cross) is derived from the Black Sun symbol cluster using a radio telescope. We are not expecting a reply worshipped by all three occult groups. Thule had this symbol just yet though as it the message will still take another 21,965 atop a German dagger in 1919- years to arrive and another 22,000 years for a reply to travel fourteen years BEFORE Hitler even came to power. In just 25 back! years, Thule created the Nazi Party, the Nazi Flag, groomed The stories I have talked about also have many other Hitler, created Himmler’s empire within Germany (which interesting versions as well as the versions I have given you ensured the Holocaust), spread the myth of Aryan superiority, here and they all make wonderful reading for both children built occult discs, secret bases outside the Reich, and evenn and adults alike whether it be the ancient Greek stories and planned a return in the future.. their heros and villains or the ancient Egyptian stories of our
experiencing a virtuous struggle and suffering which will lead
constellations. As you can see, our night skies are full interest, from ancient ways to navigate, to farmers growing their crops, to using the sky as a calendar, to telling children bedtime stories, to a wonderful hobby of simply looking up at the night sky and recognising a whole galaxy of stars; astronomy is far from the dull science it so often seems to be portrayed as in
the media or down the pub.
Stop the press!!
Virgin Galactic is the world’s first spaceline. Giving you the opportunity to become one of the first ever non-professional astronauts. Virgin Galactic will own and operate its privately built spaceships, modelled on the remarkable, history-making SpaceShipOne. It is these spaceships that will allow sub-orbital space tourism for the first time in the history of the universe
Book your place in space! Who says money can’t buy you everything! Very soon it will be able to secure you a place in space. The Virgin Galatic spaceship 2 is the world’s first manned commercial spaceship. Spaceship 2 and her mothership Whiteknighttwo are a new era in commercial space flight with flights to commence from Spaceport America in New Mexico. Sir Richard Branson first revealed the rocket plane on 7 December 2009. SpaceShipTwo was presented to the world in the Mojave desert, in California. The vehicle will undergo testing over the next 18 months before being allowed to take ticketed individuals on short-hop trips just above the atmosphere. Sir Richard,intends to run the first flights out of New Mexico before extending operations around the globe.
Eve Branson, used to be a dancer and actress. She was also a former flight attendant. So energetic and spirited was Eve Branson, that she learned to fly gliders at a time when few women drove cars. She flew so well that she trained with the Royal Air Force (RAF) cadets for duty during the Second World War.
Spaceship2 will carry around 6 passengers and two pilot 60 miles above the Earth. The vessel is around sixty foot long and ninety inch diameter. This is similar to a Falcon 900 executive jet but there is no floor in order to allow maxiumum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity. For the passenger, well they all get to sit in the same style seat as the passenger behind them, well I guess for the price of a ticket you wouldn’t want to spend all that money and then find yourself fighting for a window seat with fellow passengers. So to prevent this you each get two windows, one side window and one above your head, this means that if after forking out all that money on a ticket and you are up there you decide you don’t want to experience floating free in space and you find yourself glued to your seat, you’ll still get to see the wonderful view safetly from your seat.
Burt Rutan (above) was determined to find a failsafe solution which remained true to Scaled Composite’s philosophy of safety through simplicity. His inspiration for what is known as the feathered reentry was the humble shuttlecock, which like SpaceShipTwo relies on aerodynamic design and laws of physics to control speed and altitude. Once out of the atmosphere the entire tail structure of the spaceship can be rotated upwards to about 65º. The feathered configuration allows an automatic control of altitude with the fuselage parallel to the horizon.
Tickets cost $20,000 dollars a snip with deposits of $2,000 required. There are no travel agents to take your booking, for your $20,000 a space agent will deal with your every need. You can book directly with Virgin Galatic or with your local accredited space agent. VSS Enterprise took her maiden flight on 15 July, she flew safely attached to Virgin Mothership Eve, who was named after Branson’s mother. VMS EVE has nose art of a blond woman holding the Virgin Galactic corporate flag. The image is based on how Evette Branson looked when she was younger and is called Galactic Girl. This aircraft was officially launched on Monday July 28, 2008, in Mojave, California, USA, at the Mojave Spaceport, home of Scaled Composites. On December 12, 2008 VSS EVE performed her first taxi tests and a week later her maiden flight. The VSS Enterprise 2 maiden flight time was 6 hours and 12 minutes and the astronauts on board VMS EVE were Mark Stucky, Peter Kalagiammis and Brian Maisler. On board VSS Enterprise were Peter Siebold and Michael Alsbury. It is the largest all composite aircraft ever constructed and it has the longest single-piece composite aircraft part: at140 ft (43 m).
Some critics dismiss this particular branch of the Virgin name as nothing more than a PR stunt. If it is, it is an expensive one. Half a billion dollars has been ploughed into a space port complete with ‘space hotel’ in New Mexico, and millions more into employing field-leaders in craft design and project planning. Days before Branson spoke to TravelMail, Galactic appointed former NASA chief of staff George T Whitesides to help oversee the scheme’s transition into full operation.
The technology for Virgin galatic is owned by a company called The Space Company. This was formed by Burt Rutan and Sir Richard Branson in 2005. It is jointly owned by Virgin Group and Scaled Composites. The Space Company will manufacture aircraft for Virgin Galatic as well as other interested buyer During the early test phase of Space Ship Two’s system on 26 July 2007 an explosion occurred during a fuel flow test at the Mojave Air & Space Port. The test included filling the oxidizer tank with 4,500 kg (10,000 pounds) of nitrous oxide followed by a 15 second cold flow injector test. Even though the tests did not ignite the gas, three employees were killed and three injured, two critically and
one seriously, from shrapnel wounds. Burt Rutan remarked on the safety of the vehicle: “This vehicle is designed to go into the atmosphere in the worst case straight in or upside down and it’ll correct...This is designed to be at least as safe as the early airliners in the 1920s...Don’t believe anyone that tells you that the safety will be the same as a modern airliner, which has been around for 70 years.” I suppose that is something to think about before splashing $20,000 dollars on a ticket!! It’s not as safe as a modern airliner. They don’t appear to mention that anywhere in the sales pitch. Everyone is very excited about the commercial launch of Spaceship2 which is estimated to take place in about 18 months time. However there is another project under way and that’s the Launcher one Satellite System. Virgin Atlantic have been in talks with Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) in Guildford. SSTL is a world leader in the production of low-cost small satellites, and it was keen to explore the possibility of working with Virgin Galactic on a way to get these spacecraft into orbit much more cheaply than is currently possible. Dr Adam Baker was hoping on some funding from the UK government but that funding was not very forthcoming and so Dr Baker has now moved across to Virgin Galactic to lead its own in-house efforts to give the project momentum. A small satelite that wants to get into space could cost appoximetely $5m to $10m and Dr Baker wanted to keep as close to $100m as he can for his project. But now there is doubt in the investment as it seems the funding is just not coming through. When Dr Baker started working at Galactic, the company’s President Will Whitehorn said that Launcher One could start operating a year after the sub-orbital tourism business was up and running. However, Dr Baker left Virgin Galactic last month and there is still no clear explanation from the company as to why the project is not set to follow Mr Whitehorn’s timetable.
On 10th October 2010 in Mojave CA, VSS Enterprise was described by Scaled Composites pilot Pete Siebold as “a joy to fly” and the company confirmed that all objectives of the flight were successfully completed. The two main goals of the flight were to carry out a clean release of the spaceship from its mothership and for the pilots to free fly and glide back and land at Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
15th July was a significant milestone for Scaled Composites as the team marched towards the first solo flights of VSS Enterprise (SpaceShipTwo). For the first time VSS Enterprise flew with crew on board. As planned, the spaceship remained attached to VMS Eve (captive) for the duration of the flight and numerous combined vehicle systems tests were conducted. In addition and for the first time, the two crew members on board VSS Enterprise, evaluated all of the spaceship’s systems and functions from end to end in the air.
When Virgin Galactic were looking for some atmospheric music to herald the launch of their ground-breaking ‘SpaceShipTwo’, they turned to Above & Beyond. At an event hosted by Richard Branson in the Mojave Desert, the track chosen to accompany the official unveiling of SpaceShipTwo was Above & Beyond’s club anthem ‘Buzz’, which was inspired by the Apollo 11 moonlanding. After the unveiling of the world’s first space tourism spacecraft, Above & Beyond performed an exclusive DJ set in front of an audience of 800 dignitaries, celebrities and soon-to-be astronauts, plus the assembled global media.
One thing is for sure though, Virgin Galatic are going to be big news and once the teething problems have been ironed out it looks as though we are really going to see commercial space travel in our life time. Although at the current prices it will be more of a toy for the filthy rich and it could be many many years before the likes of the rest of us get to experience it. There is always a positive to this and that is that by the time the ticket prices have come down, which they will, simple ecomonics will see to that, by the time the prices are reduced some of the major safety issues will also have been sorted and maybe by that time a seat on the SS2 will more much more safe than an aeroplane in the 1920’s.
Branson initially suggested that space tourism would be mainstream by this year. Heexpects to send men and women beyond the pull of Earth’s gravitational field in the next 24 months, with Branson’s own personal journey in VSS Enterprise pencilled in to take place by 2012.
I hope this pit stop article introducing you to stars and constellations has raised enough interest for you to give it a go and try it for yourself. One of the beauties of it is that you control the expense. Be it the naked eye and a flask of coffee out in the garden, a camping weekend with your telescope or an exclusive ticket on the SS2 with Virgin Galatic.
You can even just take a trip out to one the many giant telescopes and astronomy centres such as the Jodrell Bank observatory in Cheshire. Who knows, after a few months of star gazing and learning to recognise stars and planets in the night sky, you might just see something you don’t recognise… but let’s leave that for another issue of Feed your Brain By Sara Bridges 2010 .
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