After British Columbia’s Record-Breaking Heatwave, Here Come the Wildfires

Every day, there are more indications that show how anthropogenic factors are causing uncomfortable changes in our climate. Here in beautiful British Columbia, this means that wildfires are once again threatening countless acres of forests, communities, and wildlife. By the end of June 2021, more than 40 wildfires were raging across the province, including a rather substantial cluster around the town of Lytton.

Located just 150 km (about 93 mi) northeast of the city of Vancouver, Lytton, had to be evacuated on June 30th after an extreme heatwave led to wildfire sweeping through the area. These wildfires and the impact they were having at the time was being monitored by some of NASA’s Earth Observatory satellites. In a series of images recently shared on their website, they show the fires that were raging near Lytton just hours before the evacuation.

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Satellites can Track Microplastics From Space

Sometimes simple and elegant solutions are all that is needed to solve a problem.  One problem that was searching for a solution was how to track microplastics.  These small particles of plastics are what results after the sun and friction (such as ocean waves) break down larger plastic objects.  They have become a huge problem in the ocean, wreaking havoc on ecosystems and their constituent organisms.  Now, a team from the University of Michigan have used data originally collected to monitor hurricanes to try to track microplastics, potentially helping to reign in a problem that threatens to engulf the world’s oceans.

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NASA is Testing out new Composite Materials for Building Lightweight Solar Sail Supports

Space exploration is driven by technology – sometimes literally in the case of propulsion technologies.  Solar sails are one of those propulsion technologies that has been getting a lot of attention lately.  They have some obvious advantages, such as not requiring fuel, and their ability to last almost indefinitely.  But they have some disadvantages too, not the least of which is how difficult they are to deploy in space.  Now, a team from NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a novel time of composite boom that they believe can help solve that weakness of solar sails, and they have a technology demonstration mission coming up next year to prove it.

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Teeny Tiny Space Telescope has Taken Thousands of Pictures of Both Earth and Space

A new nanosat has been quietly snapping over 4500 pictures of the Earth and the sky after its launch on May 15th.  Rocketed into orbit on a Falcon 9, the nanosat, known as GEOStare2, actually contains two different telescopes – one focuses on a wide field of view while the other has a much narrower field of view but much higher resolution.  Together they aim to provide data on Earth, the stars, and the network of satellites in between.

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Teeny Tiny CubeSats Could Have Deployable Mirrors Like James Webb

When you think of a space telescope, you probably think of ones such as the Hubble, which probes deep space using precision optics. But optical space telescopes are also pointed at Earth, giving us detailed views of everything from weather, to traffic patterns, to the movement of military troops. While Earth-focused telescopes are extremely useful, they can also be fairly large and expensive to launch into space. But that could change with a new proposed design for cube satellites.

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This is Currently the World’s Largest Iceberg

A gigantic chunk of ice recently broke off from an ice shelf in Antarctica, and is currently the world’s largest iceberg. The iceberg, dubbed A-76, measures around 4,320 square km (1,670 square miles) in size. At 170 km (106 miles) in length and 25 km (15 miles) wide, the iceberg is slightly larger than the Spanish island of Majorca, and bigger than the state of Rhode Island in the US.

A-76 was captured in the above image by ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite. Below is an animation of the iceberg calving off the Ronne Ice Shelf.

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A Solution to Space Junk: Satellites Made of Mushrooms?

According to the latest numbers from the ESA’s Space Debris Office (SDO), there are roughly 6,900 artificial satellites in orbit. The situation is going to become exponentially crowded in the coming years, thanks to the many telecommunications, internet, and small satellites that are expected to be launched. This creates all kinds of worries for collision risks and space debris, not to mention environmental concerns.

For this reason, engineers, designers, and satellite manufacturers are looking for ways to redesign their satellites. Enter Max Justice, a cybersecurity expert, former Marine, and “Cyber Farmer” who spent many years working in the space industry. Currently, he is working towards a new type of satellite that is made out of mycelium fibers. This tough, heat-resistant, and environmentally friendly material could trigger a revolution in the booming satellite industry.

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A new Method to Capture High-Resolution Images of Space Debris

“You can’t hit what you can’t see” is a common phrase in sports and was originally derived to describe baseball pitcher Walter Johnson’s fastball.  But the same goes for things with a more serious spin, such as some of the millions of pieces of debris floating in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).  Now, a team of researchers have come up with a new imaging system that will allow agencies and governments to closely track some of the debris that is cluttering LEO and potentially endangering humanity’s future expansion to the stars.

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