Amateur Space News May 12, 2014

The Team America Rocketry Challenge held over the weekend leads todays headlines. In addition amateur meteor observations, smartphone astronomy, amateur outreach programs in India and the US, a free online astronomy course from The Planetary Society, weather-watchers in Puerto Rico, middle school student make progress towards orbit, and news from Mars One.

Georgia students win the Team America Rocketry Challenge. Five students from Creekview High School in Canton, Georgia, outperformed 100 student rocket teams from across the United States. In addition to their share in the contest’s $60,000 of scholarships, the students will receive an expenses-paid trip to the United Kingdom courtesy of aerospace company Raytheon. They will attend the Farnborough Air Show and compete with national teams from the UK and France. The top 10 teams in this year’s contest came from eight states. The second-place team, the Neon Icons from up-state New York media received praise from the Leader Herald. The only student rocket team from New Jersey hit a glitch when their rocket’s parachute deployed early. The Washington Post wrote about the now-common appearance of all-girl teams in the contest.

Amateur meteor observers unite for science. Teams of amateur astronomers use video cameras to record the fireballs streaking across the night sky. They use the data from multiple stations to triangulate the fireball’s path can calculate the meteoroid’s original orbit. Video meteor networks, most run by amateurs, exist in countries around the world. European amateur video meteor networks in the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom have now combined their observations to form the European Video Meteor Network Database. The preprint reports that the amateur data has produced over 83,000 meteoroid orbits for meteors sighted over western Europe.

Smartphone apps make amateur astronomy better. Broadcast meteorologist and amateur astronomer Mike Lynch reviewed the top astronomy apps in the Herald of Everett, Washington.

May 10 was International Astronomy Day. Time Magazine created a gallery of amateur astronomy pictures from the Astronomical League. It received coverage across Britain, Canada, and the United States.

Mumbai amateur astronomers held a public star party reports the Free Press Journal. Volunteers with Astronomy Outreach India conducted star parties every weekend in April as part Global Astronomy Month. More recently, they conducted a sidewalk astronomy session May 9 as part of the One Sky global outreach program.

A scale model of the Solar System covers an entire town. Amateur astronomers with the Steele County Astronomical Society in southern Minnesota created the scale model to give people a sense of the size of our small part of the Universe. Setting the size of the Sun at 21 inches, the Earth was the size of a pea 200 feet away. Pluto was a small dot over a mile away. The astronomers took people on walking tours of their Solar System during the day and conducted observing sessions that night to see Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars in the night sky.

All lectures from the Planetary Society’s Bruce Betts astronomy class now online. Class 13: Galaxies, the Universe, Life (YouTube) is the final lecture in his Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy conducted at California State University Dominguez Hills. The public can watch the lectures on The Planetary Society’s website, take an online quiz, and receive a certificate of completion

Puerto Rico joined the Cocorahs amateur weather-watching network. The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow network collects daily measurements of precipitation across the United States and Canada. The data Cocorahs members report is essential for meteorologists and emergency planners. This will be especially important in Puerto Rico where annual rainfall on the island varies from 25 inches in the south to 175 inches in the north. The program will expand to the US Virgin Islands soon.

Middle school students in Michigan are a small step closer to orbit. MLive reported on the progress that Kalamazoo-area Catholic schools are making in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program. Over the past 9 weeks the students developed 80 proposals for microgravity research on the International Space Station. One of the proposals will be turned into an experiment that will travel into space this Fall.

The Telegraph joined six Virgin Galactic customers in zero-g. Richard Branson’s rocket plane isn’t ready for space tourists. His customers, including director Ron Howard’s wife and tech investor Esther Dyson, got the next best thing: a flight on a vomit comet. Zero-G Corporation’s modified jet flies dozens of parabolic arcs to create 30-second bursts of microgravity.

Today's Mars One coverage:

Former astronaut Canadian Robert Thirsk told the Calgary Sun that Mars One is a suicide mission. Citing the amount of maintenance work he performed on the International Space Station, Thirsk does not believe humanity has the technology to support a human settlement on Mars. Calgary-based Mars One candidate Zac Trolley rejected the astronaut’s comments.

The Dallas Morning News spoke with Texas candidate Cole Leonard about the decisions he faces. Accepted into law school, Leonard would have to give up his career plans for the Mars One training program.

RT interviews two Mars One candidates, Canadian Norman Green and Russian Anna Popenko. Russian cosmonaut Maksim Surayev told Popenko, “You’d be better finding a husband, having children and being happy. Why do you need this Mars?” 

The New Indian Express interviewed candidates from the state of Kerala.

India Today quoted 3 Indian candidates in their report about Mars One. The Times of Oman picked up the story.

Republica wrote about a Nepali candidate.

CBC interviewed a Canadian candidate from Ottawa.