Get Regular Updates!
Search
|Space junk: avoiding catastrophe with the Falcon Telescope Network

Space

image|

NASA

Space junk: avoiding catastrophe with the Falcon Telescope Network

Space junk: avoiding catastrophe with the Falcon Telescope Network

4 continents, 12 telescopes, and half a million bits of space junk. The Falcon Telescope Network means business. And that business is being done in our very own backyard.

Space junk: avoiding catastrophe with the Falcon Telescope Network

Since 1958, humans have been rocketing stuff into space. You can watch some of it here.

Satellites, discarded rocket bodies and other debris orbit Earth, kept close by our planet’s gravitational pull. In 2013, NASA estimated that more than half a million bits of stuff surround Earth.

And with small satellites now being sent up to space in big numbers, it’s looking to get a lot more crowded up there.

Already, crashes and collisions are happening. Which is worrisome, because the satellite which allows me to stream Netflix is very precious to me. The satellites which ensure our national security are alright too. It may also be pertinent to remember that we have people in space and if anything collides with them it could be catastrophic.

View Larger
Image|ESA/NASA
A microscopic piece of space debris was thought to have caused this 7mm crack in the quadruple glazed window of the International Space Station

But a network of telescopes is spreading across the globe and together, they’ll help us keep tabs on all the stuff in space. The telescopes will be able to identify any space debris in orbit around Earth that is larger than 10cm by picking up any sunlight that the space trash reflects.

One of the scopes in this network has been set up in WA’s very own backyard. Not only is it helping satellites steer clear of collisions, it’s also providing rural communities unprecedented access to world-class science.

FALCONS ABROAD

The Falcon Telescope Network is a collaboration between USAFA and 16 different international educational and research institutions.

Twelve telescopes will make up the Falcon Network once it’s fully rolled out. 7 are spread across America, with one each in Chile and Germany. One will be built in South Africa in the near future. And two reside on Australian soil; one in our capital, Canberra, and one at the Gravity Discovery Centre (GDC) in Gingin. This West Aussie branch of the network is hosted by the GDC and supported by UWA and Catholic Education Western Australia.

View Larger
The Falcon Telescope Network is comprised of 12 telescopes spread across the globe

They may sit on four different continents, but these telescopes are exact replicas of each other. They can be remotely controlled and simultaneously observe the exact same objects in the sky. This uniformity is critical for data collection, and in achieving the goal of identifying and characterizing the satellites filling our near universe.

View Larger
Image|USAFA
All twelve telescopes in the Falcon Telescope Network will be identical

But the Falcon Telescope Network is so much more than just tracking things in space.

ROCKET SCIENCE FOR ALL

It’s also an ambitious outreach effort that has provided opportunities rural communities the opportunity to engage in world class astronomical science.

At St Joseph’s School in Northam, students who were curious about the night sky got the chance to work with the Falcon Telescope Network and conduct an actual scientific research project. After learning about astronomical objects with a sky visualisation program, they wrote testable, scientific questions about the stuff in our sky. They then submitted their research proposals to the Falcon Telescope Network First Light Project.

Using data collected from the global network of telescopes, students were able to identify and categorise objects in orbit around our planet. One year 7 girl was thrilled to find that some of the images she captured used data collected all the way over in Chile. The students discussed results, compiled information, and reported their findings as any scientist would.

Around the world, other students have done the same.

In the future the Falcon Telescope Network will give us complete oversight of all objects larger than 10cm in space, helping to keep our satellites safe in the increasingly crowded orbit around Earth. But the network also shows that through cooperation of international research and educational institutions, science of the highest level can be performed around the world and bring knowledge to all mankind. Even year 7 students can do rocket science. Or at least, track rocket debris in space.

Natural evolution VIDEO

Republish

Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.

Guidelines

You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.

Images

Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.

Video

All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.

Contact

For more information about using our content, email us: particle@scitech.org.au

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy

We've got chemistry. Want something physical?