Category Archives: Space

You need to play this: Kerbal Space Program (Games)

OK, this has absolutely nothing to do with my recent space related posts nor does it require you to like any of that kind of stuff, this is a game that is getting peoples attention across the world (the small team of developers are based in Mexico!)

Check out this new promo video, and yes, it really is that cool.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkDOOsGg-9I&hd=1]

If you haven’t guessed this already, It’s a rocket/space flight/space mission etc sandbox simulator/game that can easily suck hours of life out of your day once you get hooked. Think GTA/ Theme Hospital or The Sims for example.

The premise is simple, you are given access to an huge assortment of rocket parts to start with and you build a rocket from scratch snapping appropriate parts together and then you take your creation outside and launch some cute little astronaut beings called “Kerbals” out to space! The simulation aspect to the game is I guess pretty realistic. Achieving orbit took me 5 hours of trial and error, where error equals a horrifying explosion and violent death of your poor Kerbals, always.
Actually, my first time making orbit I somehow overshot the perfect trajectory for earth orbit by carrying too much speed and ended up losing my cute friends in an orbit around the sun, never to return. Ooops.

From your base the universe is your oyster, you can put anything into space providing that you can build a rocket to safely loft into orbit, you can build more rockets, space stations, satellites… whatever. You can also if you wish take your Kerbals out to other planets and land (if you have build a lander that is) and perform whatever wacky assignments you want!

You really need to play it rather than me tell you about it, check out the trailer and if any of it appeals to you at least download the Demo or go ahead and buy the full game for a bargain price of $23 (~£15!)

More information can be found on their website and forums.
http://kerbalspaceprogram.com

These guys are a small team and what they have done and are still doing is something special, and far too much fun.

-R

Me and astronomy (the beginning)

So, I gradually got interested in space and then astronomy a long time ago as you do when you are a child. (Thanks Horizon, science encyclopaedia’s and NASA etc!)
But I actually started looking up at the sky in 2006 when I got my first telescope for Christmas. A quite grand Celestron Firstscope 114 on an Equatorial mount (with motor!)

DSCN0121281159861910350737
My first scope.

So, a quick story of my first experience:
It was really exciting and daunting to set up for the first time, I honestly didn’t know what to expect to see, I rarely trust the marketing text on any box but hey, this thing is designed to look at the heavens, its pretty big and looks the part, how can you go wrong!
Like a lot of people I had only had ever really seen photos in space from The Hubble Space Telescope and other super large telescopes before looking through my own so expectations were rather high, something I know now is a complete world away from using a small scope in your back garden in a light polluted town. I have become wiser and now settle for any old blob of grey light and count that as a successful night!

Anyway, I amassed a ton of books and guides and within a few days when the sky was clear and cold so I took it out for a test run. Excitedly I forgot everything I had just read, I didn’t set up the mount, didn’t align anything and straight away aimed the telescope tube straight at the bright moon that was out that night. I whacked in a shiny new high power eyepiece and started looking into the scope. Surprisingly the first thing that hit me is how hard it is to actually find something SO big in the sky! Its a kind of detached experience at first. Quickly I realised I really should slow down and use the red dot finder on the scope first like I knew I should of and back off the magnification. I soon found the moon, and tinkered with the focus until I had a clear image. Fantastic… for about 5 minutes, then things started getting blurry.. and wet. Oh oh, condensation… DEW! That was my first night of observing over, everything was soaking wet, including me. I packed up and retreated inside to investigate what happened. It just so happens England is quite a humid place even on the clearest cold nights as I found out and dew (condensation) is your enemy.

Nowadays I let me scope settle as best as possible and keep an eye on humidity to save me wasting time setting up on a night with hopeless conditions. Schoolboy error!

I mentioned my eyepieces, I got a pretty nice set with filters with my first scope that I still use today, they feel like pretty good bits of kit and have served me well.

My telescope eyepiece and filter set.
My telescope eyepiece and filter set.

As the weeks went on I got more and more into it and moved on to the usual amateur sights such as planets(wow), stars and finally the galaxy andromeda. This in particular is something that is truly astounding to think about after you see it for the first time. The blob of light you see that is andromeda actually comes from outside of our galaxy… which unlike everything else you see in your telescope (that isn’t another galaxy) is actually inside our own milky way. All those lovely images you see of towering gas clouds and star systems etc on the tv are all actually pretty “local” objects even though they may be billions upon billions of miles(sagan, haha) away. This little faint blob of light that is an entirely new set of stars and objects (That we cant really see even with telescopes) and there are billions more of those way out of reach of me and my scope.. gulp. Space is big, really big.

A few months later in 2007 I bought my current scope, A “GoTo” computerised scope that has loads of bells and whistles and can automatically slew to any object in the night sky that sits in its data bank, speeding up the entire process of finding objects by process of navigation of the stars (something I now actually find fun, and realise is an important and helpful process rather than just letting the computer do it all and not learning much)

My NexStar 130SLT "GoTo" scope.
My NexStar 130SLT “GoTo” scope.

Its a slightly longer and wider tube so magnification and light gathering capability are improved and it has delivered most of my favourite views, I like taking photographs also so I started practising astrophotography (something I may write a dedicated post on later) and here are some of my photos of my favourite sights.

Saturn_march2012 saturn

Nice view of the terminator where the lit surface ends and the shadow starts.
Nice view of the terminator where the lit surface ends and the shadow starts.
Nice close up of the moon.
Nice close up of the moon.
Jupiter and moon.
Jupiter and moon.

I can’t wait to get out again soon!

-R