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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#159 - Andrew Rader - Beyond The Known.

This week on the Podcast, Andrew Rader joins us to chat about humanity's journey to the stars so far, and maybe where we are going. We have a few Legend Birthdays and a rundown on the week's news. Renaming of a snowman, Space Force...what Space Force. Exciting Indian and Chinese Space missions for 2020, Sniffing out life on Mars, and a star that just whizzed on by.

“The phenomena of nature, especially those that fall under the inspection of the astronomer, are to be viewed, not only with the usual attention to facts as they occur, but with the eye of reason and experience.”

Born OTD 1738 – William Herschel, German-English astronomer and composer

Beyond the Known: How Exploration Created the Modern World and Will Take Us to the Stars:

From brilliant young polymath Andrew Rader – an MIT-credentialled scientist, popular podcast host and SpaceX mission manager – an illuminating chronicle of exploration that spotlights humans’ insatiable desire to continually push into new and uncharted territory, from civilisation’s earliest days to current planning for interstellar travel.



1738 – William Herschel, German-English astronomer and composer

  • Discovered Uranus, and you can see his 7 foot refractor in the Mars exhibition at the design museum

Replica in the Design Museum, of a telescope similar to that with which Herschel discovered Uranus

Mary E. Byrd was born November 15, 1849 in Le Roy, Michigan to the reverend John Huntington Byrd and Elizabeth Adelaide Lowe as the second of six children

American astronomer and educator

An important astronomer who used photography to determine comets, and was a pioneer of mixed-sex classes and resigned her post because the college took donations from big Industrialists.


1630 – Johannes Kepler, German astronomer and mathematician

Mike Adams- On November 15, 1967, Adams flew X-15 Flight 191 aboard Flying to an altitude above 50 miles, Adams qualified as an astronaut according to the United States definition of the boundary of space. Moments later the craft broke apart, killing Adams and destroying the X-15-3.

He was posthumously awarded Air Force astronaut wings because his final flight exceeded 50 miles in altitude. Adams was the only pilot lost in the 199-flight X-15 program.

15 November 2008 Eric Boe's first flight into space

Friday, 15 November STS-126- The #487 Person in Space

Space Shuttle Endeavour approaches the International Space Station during STS-126 rendezvous and docking operations. Docking occurred at 4:01 p.m. (CST) on Nov. 16, 2008. The Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module is visible in Endeavour’s cargo bay

launched on 15 November 1972: The Small Astronomy Satellite 2

It is generally acknowledged that SAS-2 provided the first detailed information about the gamma-ray sky and demonstrated the ultimate promise of gamma-ray astronomy. SAS-2 revealed that the galactic plane gamma-radiation was strongly correlated with galactic structural features, especially when the known strong discrete sources of gamma-radiation were subtracted from the total observed radiation. The SAS-2 results clearly established a high energy (> 35 MeV) component to the diffuse celestial radiation. High-energy gamma-ray emission was also seen from discrete sources such as the Crab and Vela pulsars.
  • First Orbital gamma ray telescope.

  • primary objective: the spatial and energy distribution of primary galactic and extragalactic gamma radiation which energies between 20 and 300 MeV.

  • The instrumentation consisted principally of a guard scintillation detector, an upper and a lower spark chamber, and a charged particle telescope.

  • launched from the San Marco platform off the coast of Malindi, Kenya, into a nearly equatorial orbit.

  • shape of a cylinder approximately the size of a wheellie Bin

  • Data were taken at 1000 bit/s and could be recorded on an onboard tape recorder and simultaneously transmitted in real time.

  • The recorded data was transmitted once per orbit taking 5 minutes.

  • The telescope experiment was initially turned on Nov 20 1972, and by Nov 27 1972, the spacecraft became fully operational.

  • The low-voltage power supply for the experiment failed on Jun 8 1973.

  • SAS-2 first detected Geminga, a pulsar believed to be the remnant of a supernova that exploded 300,000 years ago

This was the week that!

We saw the a Transit of Mercury for the first time since that early tour bus in the film Bohemian Rhapsody!!

Ultima Thule the strange Kuiper belt object that looked like a snowman, but turned out to be more like a snow man that had been run over by a steam roller, was renamed 486958 Arrokoth.

New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern justified their naming of Arrokoth, stating:

The name 'Arrokoth' reflects the inspiration of looking to the skies, and wondering about the stars and worlds beyond our own. That desire to learn is at the heart of the New Horizons mission, and we're honored to join with the Powhatan community and people of Maryland in this celebration of discovery.

Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, asserted that Arrokoth's name "signifies the strength and endurance of the indigenous Algonquian people" and that their heritage "continues to be a guiding light for all who search for meaning and understanding of the origins of the universe and the celestial connection of humanity."

Seeking the permission of the elders of the Pamunkey Native American Tribe, Arrokoth was proposed to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and was announced by the New Horizons team in a ceremony held at the NASA Headquarters in the District of Columbia on 12 November 2019.

The name Ultima Thule may have been jettisoned becuase of a percieved Nazi Connection.

SPACEX get back on track to human launch.

  • static fire engine tests of the Crew Dragon spacecraft

  • two burns for a duration of one-second each for two of Crew Dragon’s 16 Draco thrusters: on-orbit manoeuvring and attitude control

  • a full-duration firing for approximately nine seconds of Crew Dragon’s eight SuperDraco engines; Launch Abort Thrusters

  • Immediately after the SuperDracos shut down, two Dracos thrusters fired the SuperDraco flaps close, the sequence required to reorient the spacecraft in-flight to a parachute deploy attitude and close the flaps prior to reentry.

  • The full sequence, from SuperDraco startup to flap closure: 1 Min 10 seconds.

  • Last April the Crew Dragon capsule that visited the Space Station earlier in the year was destroyed doing the same test. Since then they have simplified the helium pressurization system, to avoid the Titanium literally exploding under the extreme conditions.

  • Now after NASA and SpaceX review all the data we should be able to see the In-Flight Abort Test.

SPACE FORCE may not happen after all

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has expressed doubts the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act would include language authorizing a Space Force.

India look like they are going for a retry at moon shot

ISRO sources claim that the agency is considering launching a stand-alone lander mission as soon as November 2020

China Successfully tested a Mars lander to join other 2020 missions!

China invited international observers to the test of its Mars lander

Conducted at a site outside Beijing simulating conditions on the Red Planet, where the pull of gravity is about one-third that of Earth

China plans to launch a lander and rover to Mars next year to explore parts of the planet in detail.

Press Release ”This event is the first public appearance of China's Mars exploration mission, also an important measure for China to pragmatically carry out space international exchanges and cooperation”

The Methane Mystery gets deeper

ESA’s Mars orbiters did not see the latest Curiosity methane burst!

A recent spike by Curiosity, measured on 19 June 2019, and the highest yet at 21 ppbv (meaning that for every billion molecules in a given volume, 21 are methane. On earth there are 1800),

Mars Express did not detect any on this occasion. Five hours after and a day before.

The ESA-Roscosmos Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), the most sensitive detector for trace gases at Mars, also did not detect any methane while flying nearby within a few days before and after Curiosity’s detection.

Let’s keep an eye on this one, it really could be a form of life that is causing this. But we’ll have to wait and see.

This graphic summarises significant measurement attempts of methane at Mars. Reports of methane have been made by Earth-based telescopes, ESA’s Mars Express from orbit around Mars, and NASA’s Curiosity located on the surface at Gale Crater; they have also reported measurement attempts with no or very little methane detected. More recently, the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter reported an absence of methane, and provided a very low upper limit. In order to reconcile the range of results, which show variations in both time and location, scientists have to understand better the different processes acting to create and destroy methane.

Discord Submission from Lorphos

A paper recently revised from an earlier version in July.

serendipitous discovery of the fastest Main Sequence hyper-velocity star (HVS) by the Southern Stellar Stream Spectroscopic Survey (S5).

The star S5-HVS1 is a ∼2.35 M⊙

A-type star located at a distance of ∼9 kpc (30, 000 light years) from the Sun

heliocentric radial velocity of 1017±2.7 km/s without any signature of velocity variability.

The current 3-D velocity of the star in the Galactic frame is 1755±50 km/s. That’s almost 4 million mph, compared to the suns sluggish ½ million mph.

When integrated backwards in time, the orbit of the star points unambiguously to the Galactic Centre, implying that S5-HVS1 was kicked away from Sgr A* with a velocity of ∼1800 km/s and travelled for 4.8 Myr to its current location. This all happend just as apes were trying to walk upright.

This is so far the only HVS confidently associated with the Galactic Centre. S5-HVS1 is also the first hyper-velocity star to provide constraints on the geometry and kinematics of the Galaxy, such as the Solar motion Vy,⊙=246.1±5.3 km/s or position R0=8.12±0.23 kpc.

The ejection trajectory and transit time of S5-HVS1 coincide with the orbital plane and age of the annular disk of young stars at the Galactic centre, and thus may be linked to its formation.

With the S5-HVS1 ejection velocity being almost twice the velocity of other hyper-velocity stars previously associated with the Galactic Centre, we question whether they have been generated by the same mechanism or whether the ejection velocity distribution has been constant over time.

Milky Way escape velocity is 500kms ish, Douglas Boubert, from the University of Oxford, a co-author on the study, said: “The velocity of the discovered star is so high that it will inevitably leave the Galaxy and never return.”

Discovered with the 3.9-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia and European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite

S5-HSV1 is beleived to be part of a binary system, that got too close to Sagittarius A*. In the gravitational dance, the one star was captured by the black hole while the other was thrown out at extremely high speed.

I wonder if we can spot the old companion using it’s spectroscopy?


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