Waiting for Series 8: Previews of All Episodes!

The BBC has released all of the titles and short synopses for Series Eight — which starts in just a few days!  SQUEEEEEEEEE!

I don’t know about you, but I’d say this is shaping up to be a great season.

Episode 1: Deep Breath
In Victorian London, there’s a restaurant that’s really a slaughterhouse (as long as it’s not Delicatessen, we’re probably okay), a buried spaceship, and an old foe long-forgotten.  Rumor has it there’s something dating back about 40 years in this one, as a nod to old fans, which would put it into the Pertwee era.

Episode 2: Into The Dalek
The Daleks are ultimate evil, right?  Well, what if one was so badly damaged it went good?  A small rebel force surrounded by Daleks (the normal, evil kind) have only one chance left, and it’s this good Dalek.  But is it really good, or is it a ploy?  The Doctor and Clara will go all “Incredible Voyage” (or “The Invisible Enemy”) in this one, going into the Dalek to see if it can be trusted….

Episode 3: Robot of Sherwood
I’m guessing this is like last season’s “Dinosaur on a Spaceship” — an idea so cool it had to be done.  Doctor Who!  And Robin Hood!  With robots!  The Doctor discovers an evil alien plot in Sherwood Forest — but it’s going to be difficult to sort it out if you can’t tell who is who.  Hmm.  Something like “The Android Invasion”, perhaps, crossed with “The Time Warrior”?

Episode 4: Listen
Everybody’s scared of something — what’s the Doctor scared of?  And Clara? They face ghosts of both future and past in this one: a terrified caretaker, the last survivor of the Universe, a boy who doesn’t want to join the army, and I think this is also the one where the writer described it as “what if when you’re talking to yourself, someone else answers?”

Episode 5: Time Heist
The Doctor is tasked with breaking into the Bank of Karabraxos, the most secure (and deadliest) bank in the Universe.  He’s got a beautiful shapeshifter to help him, but they’re up against the Teller, who can detect guilt.  I imagine the Teller will find no shortage of that when meeting the Doctor.

Episode 6: The Caretaker
Clara’s got a weird double-life, sort of like the Ponds did, and sooner or later something has to break.  She’s been keeping her normal life and her TARDIS life distinct, but then Coal Hill School gets a new caretaker with a Scottish accent.

Episode 7: Kill the Moon
In the not-too-distant future, the TARDIS crew find themselves on a shuttle busy crashing on the Moon.  They discover a mining base full of corpses, with terrifying creatures lurking in the darkness, and some sort of terrible dilemma.

Episode 8: Mummy on the Orient Express
Back in Series 6 there were rumors about an episode featuring a mummy and the Orient Express; makes me wonder whether this story actually has been knocking around a bit, waiting for the right time to be told.  I don’t know; all BBC has said is that there’s a Mummy on board the Orient Express, and if you see it, you will be dead in 66 seconds.  The Doctor is at his most ruthless, and apparently Clara decides that means it’s time to part ways.

Episode 9: Flatline
On her own now, Clara stumbles into an extra-dimensional (or less-dimensional?) menace.  Shades of Flatland perhaps; set reports from location shooting showed pictures of people painted on walls, like graffiti, only I think it’s a bit more sinister than just a bit of paint.

Episode 10: In the Forest of the Night
Someone likes their William Blake.  ;-)  One day, all over the world, everybody wakes up to find the forests have returned.  How?  And why?

Episodes 11/12 Dark Water / Death in Heaven
In a strange place called the Nethersphere, plots are being laid.  Old friends and old enemies gather, and the Doctor is presented with an impossible choice.  This one also features the Cybermen, and we know from set filming that they had great fun filming around London, recreating moments from “The Invasion” (with Patrick Troughton).

Also, the BBC has started a countdown!  Here’s yesterday’s video:

And here’s today’s:

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Taking out the trash — with STYLE!

Cygnus has returned to Earth . . . technically.  Yesterday, the spacecraft made a firey reentry, burning up in the atmosphere over the south Pacific.  The ISS crew had a lovely view of the destructive reentry, as it was night over that part of the Earth as they went overhead.  SpaceflightNow has a lovely image gallery.  ;-)

Today, the Russians conducted a spacewalk outside the ISS, installing a European experiment package, performing maintenance activities on the Russian segment, collecting samples off of Zvezda’s exterior to evaluate deposition of combustion products from its propulsion system over the past fourteen years in orbit, and also hand-launching a tiny nanosatellite for Peru.  Here, cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev has just released the Chasqui 1 imaging nanosatellite, which is floating away at top right.


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What goes up, must come down: Falcon 9 and TRMM

The old truism, “what goes up must come down”, is still true today, unless you launch high enough, but almost everything launches low enough that it is ultimately doomed.  Sometimes things come back neatly, like the Falcon 9 first stage, incrementally working towards a controlled landing of the booster.  SpaceX has released a new video from a chase plane:

And sometimes things come back down completely out of control.  The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, a joint project between NASA and JAXA, is out of propellant.  It is beginning its slow descent under the combined forces of gravity and atmospheric drag.  Since it has no propellant, the venerable spacecraft could come down pretty much anywhere under its flight path (from 35 north to 35 south), and NASA expects it to come down sometime between spring of 2016 and autumn of 2017, depending on solar activity and such.  I don’t have any video of that, obviously, but I did find this lovely animation showing NASA’s entire fleet of weather satellites, as of January 2014.

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Way-cool Infrared Camera — And It’s Crowdfunded!

I love crowdfunding; the world’s full of people with great ideas, and crowdfunding provides an opportunity for them to launch those ideas without the backing of a big, established corporation.  Just look at what a crowdfunded team has done with the hibernating ISEE-3 probe, or the GoldieBlox system, or children’s books like “Augie and the Green Knight”.  And there’s another one out there that I think is pretty awesome, and you should totally check it out: the Hema-Imager, originally devised by physicist Erik Beall.

The Hema-Imager is a hand-held infrared camera that pairs with your cell phone or tablet.  You’ve doubtless seen some thermal images before — missile’s-eye footage from Desert Storm, heat measurements on Mythbusters, a whole lot of action movies — and you doubtless figured that sort of equipment has got to be really expensive.  And it generally is.  Originally, pretty much just the military could afford it, but it’s getting to where consumers can access it.  Of course, right now, that’s consumers with a lot of disposable income, and these days, that’s not a lot of us.  So Hema-Imager LLC came along; the team has built a remarkably compact device for a fraction of what competitors charge.  It’s compatible with both iPhone and Android OS, and it connects via either Bluetooth or WiFi.  (The initial prototype is Bluetooth only, but they’ve got a WiFi prototype as well no.  Bluetooth consumes less power, but the WiFi has more throughput for a better frame rate.)

If they get enough funding for a manufacturing run, that is.  And that’s where we all come in.  The Kickstarter has less than a month to go, and it’s got a ways to go in funding.  Chip in $250 and if they make their goal, you can get one of these awesome devices.  If you haven’t used Kickstarter before, it’s actually pledge; it doesn’t actually process your payment until the pledge period is over, and then only if they get enough pledges — that way, if they don’t get enough money to give you your reward, you won’t end up throwing away any money.  This makes it a very low risk opportunity for you to fun an exciting new startup!

Please, go check it out, and pass it on!  This is a very cool device from a very enthusiastic team with a solid supply chain and a great product, and I’m hoping it gets fully funded — I’ve pledged already.  ;-)  I can forsee a lot of uses for this thing around the house.  My husband wants one to try to track down heat leaks and hopefully to figure out where the little mousies are getting into our basement.  I’d love to use it to get a better handle on the thermal properties of my telescope.  I like to do solar observing, but I really don’t have a good handle on whether or not my ‘scope is properly shielded from the sunlight.  If one part of the tube is hotter than the other, I will get distortion, but if I don’t know whether the ‘scope is adequately shielded, I’ll probably blame it on the seeing, totally unaware that the problem is in fact fixable.  Plus, it’ll be a lot of fun to mess around with it.  ;-)

So go, check out the Kickstarter!  Tell your friends!  You won’t regret it.

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Breathtaking. Simply breathtaking.

Rosetta captured this stunning end-to-end image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on August 7, and ESA released it to the public today.  And it’s frankly stunning.


And if you have 3D glasses, they’ve also made an anaglyph of the scene, combining the above image with another taken seventeen minutes later, so that the spacecraft’s motion provides the separation needed to view the comet in 3D.

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Waiting for Series 8: More Tidbits!

First off, you may already have heard the rumors, but if not, here we go: rumor is, this season’s title sequence is already on YouTube.  And it’s actually not exactly a rumor; fan and motion graphics professional Billy Hanshaw put together a lovely and very original yet somehow still absolutely classic title sequence.  It’s been very popular on YouTube, and eventually Stephen Moffatt happened to see it — and commissioned Hanshaw to do a title sequence for the actual series.  We’ll get to see it in just over a week.  ;-)  But for now, here’s his original concept video:

The Doctor Who World Tour is still underway; here’s highlights from the Q&A in Seoul, South Korea:

And here’s highlights from the Q&A in Sydney, Australia:

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The most powerful commercial imaging satellite ever has launched!

An Atlas V, making a rare commercial flight, placed the WorldView 3 satellite into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base today.

WorldView 3 is easily the largest and most powerful commercial imaging satellite to date, and also the first multi-payload, super-spectral, high-resolution one, for the first time competing with government imagery providers such as the venerable Landsat program.  It will be able to photograph in infrared, and it carries a shortwave atmospheric sounder to assist in calibration, another first for a commercial spacecraft.  Built by Ball Aerospace around a 1.1 meter telescope built by Exelis, and operated by DigitalGlobe, this will deliver resolution down to 1 foot (31 cm), unprecedented outside of military reconnaissance programs today; conveniently for Digital Globe, they received license from the US Government to sell imagery down to that level to the public.

The rest of the DigitalGlobe fleet are GeoEye 1 (at 41 cm resolution), WorldView 2 at 46 cm, WorldView 1 at 50, QuickBird at 61, and their first and still probably most famous spacecraft, Ikonos, at 82 cm resolution.  All are still in service today.  WorldView 3 has a design lifetime of at least 7 years, and should operate much longer.

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