Beware of Falling Asteroids
Good Afternoon, SkyCube Supporters!
We're going to start this update with a diversion that is not, strictly-speaking, SkyCube related.
Tomorrow, February 15th, planet Earth gets a close shave from a nearby asteroid, 2012 DA14. This 180,000-ton space rock comes within a few thousand miles of the Earth's surface - closer than our geosynchronous communication satellites, and a record close approach for an asteroid of this size. Amateur astronomers with large backyard telescopes and clear, dark skies should be able to catch a glimpse!
While this asteroid is going to (barely) miss us, others may not. It seems worthwhile to survey the skies to find out just how severe the asteroid threat really is - this one could have vaporized a city the size of New York if it arrived just 15 minutes later. And to figure out what how we'd move an asteroid off a collision course if one were found. A whole other reason to move asteroids, of course, is to mine them. It's an idea so crazy that Google is putting its money behind it.
There's something else unique about this particular asteroid flyby: it's the first one that you can follow on your smartphone! We've updated our SkySafari Plus and Pro apps for iOS, Mac, and Android to predict the motions of asteroids and comets using the same highly-accurate solar system physics as NASA and JPL. As a result, unlike virtually every other planetarium program, SkySafari Plus and Pro can pinpoint 2012 DA14 accurately in the sky. As far as we know, ours are the only mobile apps - and maybe the only desktop apps - that can do this!
Here's a 6-minute YouTube video which shows the new SkySafari Pro update in action:
(Here's a link to the YouTube video, in case the image above won't click through to it.)
We're almost done with the shameless plug, now, but we might as well mention that this new update is free for current SkySafari Plus and Pro owners! If don't yet have a copy, now is the time to upgrade - we've put it on sale through Sunday.
To download SkySafari Plus for iOS, Mac, or Android, use the following links:
- SkySafari Plus 3.7.3 for iOS (sale price USD $9.99, regularly $14.99)
- SkySafari Plus 1.7.3 for Mac OS X (sale price USD $14.99, regularly $19.99)
- SkySafari Plus 1.7.4 for Android (sale price USD $9.99, regularly $14.99)
To download SkySafari Pro for iOS, Mac, or Android, use the following links:
- SkySafari Pro 3.7.3 for iOS (sale price USD $29.99, regularly $39.99)
- SkySafari Pro 1.7.3 for Mac OS X (sale price USD $39.99, regularly $49.99)
- SkySafari Pro 1.7.4 for Android (sale price USD $29.99, regularly $39.99)
Please note: the basic version of SkySafari does not support the new asteroid/comet orbit integrator. This new feature is exclusive to SkySafari Plus and Pro.
Announcing Satellite Safari
So let's reel all of this back into the SkyCube project. We (Southern Stars) are first-and-foremost a mobile app developer. Most of our work on SkyCube in 2012 concentrated on building the satellite itself. That work is nearly complete, and we're turning attention to the mobile app side of the project.
As we developed an app for the SkyCube mission, we realized it would be useful for more than just our one satellite. And we also realized that there are a lot of you out there who really enjoy observing and learning about our "birds" in orbit. So the SkyCube app has evolved beyond its original mission, and become a satellite-watcher's dream. And it now has a name: Satellite Safari.
Here are some screen shots:
We're putting the finishing touches on Satellite Safari right now, and expect to release version 1.0 well before April, 2013. And speaking of April, 2013 - we'll have an update regarding our launch schedule very soon. (Hang on - the ink isn't quite dry yet, and we don't want to jinx it. Stay tuned.)
A few articles mentioning SkyCube to one degree or another have recently come across our desk:
- Adam Wuerl, of our very own launch provider, Spaceflight Services, has written a very good analysis of major trends in the space industry over the past 20 years. Read his blog post here.
- The Verge magazine has published a lavishly-illustrated article on the current crowd-funding revolution in space.
- Filmmaker David Gaynes has produced a documentary movie about a different kind of grassroots space effort: the campaign to save the Hubble Space Telescope in the early 2000s. I've seen his movie, and it's surprisingly moving. David supported SkyCube, and we're giving him a shout in return.
We hope you've enjoyed this update. It's a little off the beaten path - but then again, battleship-sized asteroids don't come whizzing by us every day. We'll offer some real meat-and-potatoes details on the SkyCube mission progress very soon.
In the meantime, keep looking up! You never know what might try to sneak by. Best regards,
-Tim, Kevin, Chris, Scott, Rouslan, Mark, Joe, and the rest of Team SkyCube