Astrophiz 95: Steve Olney – The 2019 Vela Glitch


Astrophiz 95: Steve Olney: From Ham Radio to Radio Astronomy – The 2019 Vela Glitch


Feature Interview: This amazing interview features Steve Olney who has established the Hawkesbury Radio Astronomy Observatory in his backyard.  Steve has constructed a Yagi antenna array, coupled it with a receiver and observed a pulsar 900 LY away and generated data that has enabled him to be the only person on the planet to observe Vela’s 2019 glitch in radio waves as it happened.

In the sky for observers and astrophotographers:

Our regular feature ‘What’s Up Doc’ is with Dr Ian ‘Astroblog’ Musgrave. He previews the excellent planet viewing opportunities over the next two weeks, and Venus and Jupiter have close encounters with the moon. Ian gives tips on observing the little known Alpha Monocerotid meteor shower which has a predicted rate of 400 per hour this year on Thursday night, November 21-22, from a radiant near the star Procyon. It peaks around 04:50 UT (around 3 pm in Australia) and while this is during daylight hours for us, it is possible the peak may arrive early or late so observations on the morning of the 21st and 22nd from around 1 am are encouraged. Observations in the Northern hemisphere are favoured with a higher radiant. In the UK the peak is a 4:50am before dawn, and on East coast USA at 11:50pm and on the West coast at 8:50pm.

In the News:

On Nov. 11, SpaceX launched 60 “Starlink” satellites into low-earth orbit, bringing its total constellation size to 122 — already one of the largest satellite networks in space. The company has approval to launch 12,000 of the small broadband satellites, and SpaceX has just asked the International Telecommunication Union to arrange spectrum for 30,000 additional Starlink satellites.

The American Astronomical Society has voiced concern about the sheer number of planned satellites leading to inevitable space collisions, filling valuable orbits with dangerous debris fields. SpaceX competitor OneWeb is also planning its own giant constellation of broadband satellites starting in 2020. My personal view is that this is a consumer rights issue.

As consumers of night skies, the rights of astronomers to observe the night sky are being annihilated. 

So thanks for nothing Mr Musk, I’m looking forward to seeing your responsible and effective method of establishing a Starlink collision debris field cleanup protocol.
Not holding my breath.

Forbes has produced a very thoughtful piece on this issue and intrepid orbital mathematician and asteroid hunter Daniel Bamberger has summarised it succinctly: “As of now, only 0.14% of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites are in orbit, and the effects are already felt. Elon Musk says he wants to paint his satellites black to resolve the issue, but it is unlikely that this will actually help much, as the highly reflective solar panels cannot be painted.

SpaceX also claims that they would “maneuvre its constellation to create gaps and accommodate sensitive astronomical observations”. So, astronomers will have to propose their observation plans to SpaceX in the future, hoping that SpaceX grants them dark skies?”  Daniel doubts it, me either Daniel.

On a happier note, a big shoutout to Rami Mandow, Amy Wardrop and Fiona Li at Spaceaustralia-DOT-com. The have constructed a striking website to showcase all the latest developments in Australia’s reemerging space industry plus the very latest in astronomical research developments. It’s very cool. Go and bookmark Spaceaustralia-DOT-com.

***Our Next Episodes:***

Our very next and final 2019 episode is our ‘Are We Alone’ feature episode with Professor Geraint Lewis, and then we take a well-earned summer holiday break over the festive season. 

In the New Year, we will talk with Dr Belinda Nicholson over in the UK, Wael Farah on his use of AI to capture FRB signals from MOST in real time, and we have lined up alien communication specialist researcher Daniel Oberhaus, who is the author of his new book ‘Extraterrestrial Languages’. We’re also hoping to have Clint Jeffrey on the show to talk about ‘First Light’ for the Astronomical Society of Victoria’s new 8m Radio Telescope up in a quiet zone in central Victoria.

And then in March 2020 we will have our milestone 100th episode and we are thrilled to confirm Dr Vanessa Moss will be our guest for this special episode.

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