Every week I summarize what's new in amateur space exploration. If you want to see the reports daily, follow me on Twitter.
A British teenager discovered a “hot Jupiter” orbiting the star Wasp142. In 2013, then 15-year old student Tom Wagg spent a few weeks interning at Keele University where he analyzed data collected by the Wasp exoplanet survey. After Wagg returned to school, professional astronomers spent two years conducting follow-up observations to confirm the planet’s existence.
Wasp, the Wide Angle Search for Planets, is the UK's largest exoplanet search program. Each of its "telescopes" is an array of eight Canon lenses with attached astronomical image sensors. Stationed at observatories in the Canary Islands and South Africa, the telescopes measure the brightness of stars throughout the night. When an exoplanet passes in front of its star, the starlight appears to dim. It's this dip in starlight that Wagg spotted and led to his discovery. You can read full details in the Keele University press release.
Space.com wrote about space projects’ successes with crowdfunding. It cites projects like Planetary Resources’ Arkyd space telescope that raised $1.5 million.
Commentary: The article glosses over the fact that crowdfunding is only the first step - space is hard. Kicksat succeeded, but an equipment failure sent the satellite plunging into the atmosphere before it could deploy its satellite-on-a-chip. Even the Arkyd project ran into problems when the Antares launch vehicle exploded on the pad. The article completely ignores the crowdfunding projects like Golden Spike that fail miserably.
A high school from Essex won the United Kingdom Aerospace Youth Rocketry Challenge over the weekend. James Hornsby School’s Team Terminator edged out 18 other teams to become the British rocketry championships. They will represent Britain at the International Rocketry Fly-off later this month at the Paris Air Show. (Southend Standard)
Students at the University of Surrey thought they had lost their near space balloon project when winds carried it over the North Sea. Fortunately local lifeboat crews treated it as a chance to get in some practice. (getSurrey)
Lodi High School’s rocket team went from a 93rd place finish in the 2014 Team America Rocketry Challenge to a 23rd place finish in this year’s contest. The team explains how they got better through practice and math. (North Jersey.com)
Nasa’s Hunch program enlists schools across the US to make hardware the space agency will use in orbit. Florida’s Palm Bay Magnet High School makes stowage bags, writes apps, and develops prototypes of space hardware. (Florida Today) Students from Jackson Hole High School got to fly in Nasa’s zero gravity aircraft. After three years in the Hunch program, they developed a system that uses magnets to make spacecraft docking more gentle. (Jackson Hole News and Guide)
The University of Zurich came up with a way to pay for their microgravity research flights: selling tickets to tourists. (Intelligent Aerospace)
Amateur storm spotters are an important part of America’s weather system, but they don’t chase storms. National Weather Service meteorologist Ron Morales taught an amateur radio club how to safely report storms and give the pros the ground truth they need to make accurate warnings. (Bluffton Today)
The general public can take the free online course “Climate from Space” to learn how earth observation satellites help scientists study and monitor climate change. It’s sponsored by the European Space Agency and conducted by scientists from across Europe.
An amateur radio enthusiast developed a way to make daytime observations of meteors using the FUNCube receiver. Friction creates a streak of ionized gas as the meteor passes through the atmosphere. Scientists believe these gas trails generate very low frequency radio signals, but have never gathered enough data to confirm it. (Southgate Amateur Radio News)