Tag: ‘Space’

Alien e-mail reply to arrive in 2015?

14 May 2008

Email to Altair --

An "e-mail" message from aliens inhabiting the Altair solar system could reach Earth within 7 years, some astronomers suggest. The alien message would come in response to a radio-wave signal sent toward Altair 25 years ago by Japanese astronomer Hisashi Hirabayashi, who suggests we may receive a reply as early as the year 2015 if intelligent aliens received, decoded and responded quickly to the message. Altair is located approximately 16 light-years from Earth.

Hirabayashi, a former researcher at the University of Tokyo Astronomical Observatory (now known as the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), along with colleague Masaki Morimoto, sent the message via a US radio telescope in 1983 on the Tanabata holiday, a traditional Japanese star festival celebrating the annual meeting of two stars -- Vega (which represents the goddess Orihime) and Altair (which represents the god Hikoboshi) -- in the night sky.

The message, which is believed to have reached Altair in 1999, consisted of 13 binary-encoded images (71 x 71 pixels each) that showed, among other things, the characteristics of our solar system, the location of our planet, the known chemical elements, whole numbers, human characteristics, and the basic structure of DNA. Their message also attempted to explain biological evolution with a depiction of mammals evolving from primeval life forms (see the image above of the fish crawling onto land).

Hirabayashi theorizes that if the aliens are intelligent enough to receive radio-wave signals, they should recognize that the data consists of 13 images and they should be able to send a reply. But Hirabayashi is not holding his breath. "I believe aliens exist, but they are difficult to find," he says. "We haven't even observed any planets around Altair, so it is highly unlikely we will receive a response."

Hirabayashi's original illustrations, which went missing for many years, were recently discovered at the Nishi-Harima Astronomical Observatory, where Morimoto works as an advisor. Strangely, one of the pictures sent to Altair includes the molecular formula for ethanol along with the kanji characters for kanpai (the Japanese toast of "cheers!") and the English word "TOAST."

"I came up with that idea while drinking," Hirabayashi playfully admits. "The aliens probably won't understand that part."

[Source: Sankei]

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UPDATE -- According to this graphic, the message to Altair included descriptions of the following:

- Whole numbers, prime numbers, definition of lengths
- Addition, multiplication
- Main chemical elements, atomic structure
- Solar system data (size of sun/planets, distance of planets from sun)
- DNA structure and basic composition
- History of terrestrial biological evolution (primeval life forms, fish, amphibians, anthropoids, etc.)
- Image of human form and face, number of human genes
- World population
- Message transmission frequency
- Chemical formula for ethanol
- Kanji character for kampai (Cheers!), English word "TOAST"

Video: Space boomerang

01 May 2008

JAXA has finally gotten around to releasing video of astronaut Takao Doi's successful space boomerang toss conducted inside the International Space Station's Harmony Module in March. (Watch it.)

[Source: JAXA via IT Media]

Space boomerangs

07 Mar 2008

Do boomerangs return when thrown in zero-gravity? Japanese astronaut Takao Doi will soon find out by throwing some around inside the International Space Station.

Space boomerang --
Space boomerangs to be tested aboard ISS

When the Space Shuttle Endeavour launches on March 11, Doi will be carrying a pair of paper boomerangs presented by Yasuhiro Togai, a 2006 world boomerang champion and space enthusiast from Osaka. Togai, who long wondered how boomerangs would fly without the downward pull of gravity, suggested Doi conduct boomerang experiments in space after they met several years ago. Doi agreed, and Togai taught him how to throw. Togai believes the space boomerangs will spiral up and away without returning, but he says he is looking forward to the results.

[Source: Yomiuri]

JAXA testing space solar power system

08 Feb 2008

Space Solar Power System --
For decades, scientists have explored the possibility of using space-based solar cells to power the Earth. Some see orbiting power stations as a clean and stable energy source that promises to slow global warming, while others dismiss the idea as an expensive and impractical solution to the world's energy problems. While the discussion goes on, researchers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have begun to develop the hardware.

JAXA, which plans to have a Space Solar Power System (SSPS) up and running by 2030, envisions a system consisting of giant solar collectors in geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. The satellites convert sunlight into powerful microwave (or laser) beams that are aimed at receiving stations on Earth, where they are converted into electricity.

On February 20, JAXA will take a step closer to the goal when they begin testing a microwave power transmission system designed to beam the power from the satellites to Earth. In a series of experiments to be conducted at the Taiki Multi-Purpose Aerospace Park in Hokkaido, the researchers will use a 2.4-meter-diameter transmission antenna to send a microwave beam over 50 meters to a rectenna (rectifying antenna) that converts the microwave energy into electricity and powers a household heater. The researchers expect these initial tests to provide valuable engineering data that will pave the way for JAXA to build larger, more powerful systems.

Microwave Space Solar Power SystemJAXA says the orbiting solar arrays, which have the advantage of being able to collect energy around the clock regardless of the weather on the ground, will need to transmit microwaves through the earth's atmosphere at frequencies that are not affected by the weather. The researchers are now looking at using the 2.45GHz and 5.8GHz bands, which have been allocated for use with industrial, scientific and medical devices.

JAXA ultimately aims to build ground receiving stations that measure about 3 kilometers across and that can produce 1 gigawatt (1 million kilowatts) of electricity -- enough to power approximately 500,000 homes.

[Source: Hokkaido Shimbun]

Origami spaceplane to launch from space station

16 Jan 2008

Origami spaceplane --

Researchers from the University of Tokyo have teamed up with members of the Japan Origami Airplane Association to develop a paper aircraft capable of surviving the flight from the International Space Station to the Earth's surface.

The researchers are scheduled to begin testing the strength and heat resistance of an 8 centimeter (3.1 in) long prototype on January 17 in an ultra-high-speed wind tunnel at the University of Tokyo's Okashiwa campus (Chiba prefecture). In the tests, the origami glider -- which is shaped like the Space Shuttle and has been treated to withstand intense heat -- will be subjected to wind speeds of Mach 7, or about 8,600 kilometers (5,300 miles) per hour.

A large spacecraft such as the Space Shuttle can reach speeds of up to Mach 20 (over 15,200 mph) when it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere, and friction with the air heats the outer surface to extreme temperatures. The much lighter origami aircraft, which the researchers claim will come down more slowly, is not expected to burn up on re-entry.

No launch date has been set for the paper spaceplane, but Shinji Suzuki, an aerospace engineering professor at the University of Tokyo, is thinking ahead. "We hope the space station crew will write a message of peace on the plane before they launch it," says Suzuki. "We don't know where in the world the plane will land, but we hope that whoever finds it will contact us."

[Source: Asahi]

Earthrise video

14 Nov 2007

Earth over the lunar horizon --

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and public broadcaster NHK have released a scaled-down online version of their much anticipated high-definition video of the Earth rising over the lunar horizon. The video was taken on November 7 by the HDTV camera aboard the KAGUYA (SELENE) lunar explorer orbiting the moon at an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles). The first part of the video shows the Earth rising up from the horizon near the moon's north pole, and the second part shows the Earth setting near the moon's south pole. The original high-definition footage, which NHK plans to broadcast soon, is the world's first high-definition video of Earth taken from the moon (380,000 kilometers/ 236,000 miles from Earth). Obviously, the edited YouTube version you see here (as well as the original online version at JAXA) is not in HD format, but it is a nice teaser for what is coming to HDTV viewers in Japan.

[Source: JAXA]

Moon in HDTV

08 Nov 2007

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and public broadcaster NHK have succeeded in capturing the world's first high-definition video of the moon taken from lunar orbit. The 8x time-lapse video was shot using an HDTV camera aboard the KAGUYA lunar explorer, a.k.a. SELENE (SELenological and ENgineering Explorer), while in orbit 100 kilometers (62 miles) above the lunar surface.

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See also:

- Earthrise video
- HDTV footage of Earth

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JAXA has posted an online version of the video, which is divided into two parts. The first part was shot on west side of the Ocean of Storms as the explorer moved from south to north, and the second part was shot from a location north of the Ocean of Storms (Oceanus Procellarum) as the explorer moved toward the north pole. The footage was taken on October 31.

Here are a few stills from the video...

Moonscape --
(Enlarge)

This still was taken from the first part of the video, which was shot on the west side of the Ocean of Storms as KAGUYA moved from south to north. The dark area on the right side of the screen is the "ocean," and the bright area on the left is called the "highland."

Moonscape --
(Enlarge)

This still, which also shows the west side of the Ocean of Storms, was taken from the end of the first part of the video. The Repsold crater, which measures 107 kilometers (66 miles) across, is visible in the center of the image, near the bottom.

Moonscape --
(Enlarge)

This still, taken from the second part of video, shows an area north of the Ocean of Storms, near the north pole. At this high latitude, the low-angle sunlight casts long shadows in the craters.

The online video does not include the much-anticipated shot of the earth rising over the lunar horizon, but perhaps NHK is saving it for when they broadcast the footage in its full, high-definition glory.

[Source: JAXA press release]

Who to notify when aliens call?

05 Nov 2007

Alien -- This past weekend, a group of 66 Japanese astronomers gathered to discuss the proper course of action to take in the event a signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence is discovered. The astronomers, who met specifically to determine which national authorities to notify after receiving an alien signal, failed to reach a decision before the meeting was adjourned.

According to the Declaration of Principles Concerning Activities Following the Detection of Extraterrestrial Intelligence -- a set of guidelines adopted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and other international astronomy organizations -- the discoverer of an alien signal is strictly prohibited from informing the general public until after he/she verifies that the signal is extraterrestrial in origin, informs other observers or research organizations involved so that they can independently observe and monitor the signal, and notifies the "relevant national authorities."

While these guidelines have existed for nearly 20 years, the Japanese SETI community has never formally discussed who exactly Japan's "relevant national authority" is until this weekend's conference. The meeting was held at the Nishi-Harima Astronomical Observatory (NHAO) in Hyogo prefecture, which for the past several years has been using its 2-meter NAYUTA telescope (Japan's largest) to search the heavens for high-intensity laser pulses sent our way by an extraterrestrial civilization attempting to communicate.

At the meeting, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications were named as possible "relevant national authorities," but some participants rejected these nominations and called the IAU's adopted guidelines into question by repeatedly warning that government authorities might cover up the truth if given a monopoly over the information.

In the end, the astronomers agreed to form a working group to study the issue, and they plan to announce their decision in 2009, which has been named the International Year of Astronomy. Should aliens establish contact in Japan before then, it will be up to the discoverer to decide who to notify.

[Source: Yomiuri]

Lunar probe shoots HDTV footage of Earth

02 Oct 2007

HDTV image of Earth from space -- The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and public broadcaster NHK have succeeded in capturing their first high-definition video of Earth from the Kaguya lunar explorer, a.k.a. SELENE (SELenological and ENgineering Explorer), an orbiter launched in mid-September on a mission to study the moon. (Click for full-sized image.)

Using a high-definition camera NHK developed specifically for use in space, the video was taken at a distance of 110,000 kilometers (68,000 miles) from Earth, making it the most distant HDTV footage of the planet ever taken. Previous HDTV video from the Space Shuttle and International Space Station was taken from a distance of 340 kilometers (210 miles).

More HDTV space footage -- including a money-shot of the Earth rising over the lunar horizon -- is expected this month as Kaguya continues its journey toward the moon. Viewers with HDTV-compatible television sets will get to experience the full quality of the high-definition video whenever NHK decides to air it.

[Link: JAXA]