satellites

Amateur Satellite Trackers Found The Secret X-37B Space Plane In Orbit

The US Air Force’s supersecret X-37B was launched into orbit for the fourth time last week, and amateur satellite watchers have promptly identified its secret orbit — also for the fourth time. There is, you see, a small army of amateurs who keep track of over 300 spy satellites, often with little more than a pair of binoculars.


The Himalayas Dropped Almost A Metre After The Nepal Earthquake

The earthquake in Nepal was so violent it moved mountains. Satellite imagery shows that the parts of the Himalayas sank three feet (91cm) — and the area around it as much as five feet (152cm) — as tectonic plates snapped under extreme pressure. But the mountains will regain their height, slowly but surely, thanks to the geologic forces at work.


The FAA Is Switching To Satellites For Air Traffic Control

As unnerving as it is to hear, air traffic control has always been pretty piecemeal. Relying on a combination of instrumentation — namely, radar, radios, and GPS — as well as good old-fashioned eyeballs, pilots do a pretty good job navigating the sky. But they’re about to get a lot better with a new satellite-based system.


The Minority Report Of Famine Prediction Knows Where To Send Aid

On a day spent dodging Periscope unboxings of Apple Watches on the other side of the country, it’s difficult to believe that there’s too little information in the world. But when it comes to life-and-death predictions of agriculture in Africa, our system is woefully inadequate, and the only hope is space.


Why We Need A Better Way To Kill Satellites

2465. That’s the number of satellites that are whipping gracefully around the Earth as you read this.


For 50 Years Now, The US Has Had A Nuclear Reactor Orbiting In Space

Exactly half a century ago this week, a rocket shot off from the California coast. It carried the US’ first and only (known) space nuclear reactor, SNAP-10A, which has been circling the Earth ever since and will continue to circle for another 3000 years.


This Cartoon Perfectly Sums Up The Optimism Of 1950s Futurism

The December 28, 1959 issue of Life magazine featured this illustration of life in 1975. It’s over the top and cartoonish, of course, but it perfectly sums up all of the techno-optimism that was so prevalent in the late 1950s — the Golden Age of Futurism.


A Satellite Exploded In Orbit And No One's Quite Sure Why Yet

How many satellites would you say are currently orbiting the Earth? A few hundred? Maybe a thousand? No. There are about 3700 satellites hurtling through orbit above us — so when one of them “breaks up”, it’s a big deal.


How To Read Satellite Data Maps Of The Earth

NASA’s Earth Observatory has spent over 15 years using satellites to collect hordes of real-time data across our planet’s surface. They reveal everything from temperature and energy use, to how much radiation we beam into space. Here’s how to understand satellite data maps to understand our planet’s vital signs.


The Double Cyclone Disaster That Smashed Into Australia Last Week

Here you can see a composite satellite photo of two cyclones hitting northern Australia within six hours of each other this week. In the upper left is Cyclone Lam, and in the lower right is Cyclone Marcia. It’s beautiful but also terrifying.