Tag Archives: space

Tracking space junk

Algorithms normally used to track aircraft, ships and other vehicles are being used to monitor space junk and predict where it will go.

Currently the US Department of Defense tracks around 17,300 objects the size of a softball or larger, orbiting around the Earth at speeds of up to seven kilometres per second.

They can cause serious damage if they collide with something else. Last year a tiny paint fleck caused a crack in a window of the International Space Station.

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Geoffrey Rush talks stars

The search for the first stars and the hunt for dark energy both feature in a new planetarium show narrated by Geoffrey Rush. The show premiered in March 2016 at the Melbourne Planetarium and will be seen in planetariums around the world.

“I hope this show conveys some of the wonder of the Universe we live in,” says Professor Elaine Sadler, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO).

The Murchison Widefield Array telescope is discovering when the first stars and galaxies formed.
The Murchison Widefield Array telescope is discovering when the first stars and galaxies formed
Credit: Alex Cherney/Museum Victoria

‘Capturing the Cosmos’ was created by Melbourne Planetarium and CAASTRO, and features the work of two of Australia’s new telescopes, the Murchison Widefield Array and Skymapper.

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Changing lives: Australia–Japan science links

To read about Japan-Australia innovation collaborations—including searching for new malaria drugs, giant robot trucks carrying ore, and chewing gum that reverses tooth decay—click here.

Japanese science changing Australia

The impact of Japanese technological prowess on Australian society is obvious for all to see. How we listened to music was transformed by audio recording technologies: from the Walkman to the CD. Home entertainment was changed by video tapes, DVDs, and game consoles. We rely on Japanese innovation in transport—reliable car engineering, the lean manufacturing techniques that made them affordable and, more recently, hybrid cars.

Nobel Laureate Shinya Yamanaka changed stem cell science. Credit: Gladstone Institutes/Chris Goodfellow
Nobel Laureate Shinya Yamanaka changed stem cell science. Credit: Gladstone Institutes/Chris Goodfellow

Fundamental science discoveries are bringing a new era of transformation. Japanese researchers were honoured last year with the Nobel Prize for their invention of the blue LED. They succeeded where for 30 years everyone else had failed. Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps—lasting a lifetime and using a fraction of the energy.

In 2006 Shinya Yamanaka discovered how intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells. By introducing only a few genes, he could reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells, that is, immature cells that are able to develop into all types of cells in the body. His work is transforming stem cell medicine and many Australian researchers are now using induced pluripotent stem cells to develop stem cell medicines.

Continue reading Changing lives: Australia–Japan science links

Changing lives: Australia–Japan science links

Japanese science changing Australia

The impact of Japanese technological prowess on Australian society is obvious for all to see. How we listened to music was transformed by audio recording technologies: from the Walkman to the CD.

Nobel Laureate Shinya Yamanaka changed stem cell science. Credit: Gladstone Institutes/Chris Goodfellow
Nobel Laureate Shinya Yamanaka changed stem cell science. Credit: Gladstone Institutes/Chris Goodfellow

Home entertainment was changed by video tapes, DVDs, and game consoles. We rely on Japanese innovation in transport—reliable car engineering, the lean manufacturing techniques that made them affordable and, more recently, hybrid cars.

Fundamental science discoveries are now bringing a new era of transformation. Japanese researchers were honoured last year with the Nobel Prize for their invention of the blue LED. They succeeded where for 30 years everyone else had failed. Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps— lasting a lifetime and using a fraction of the energy.

In 2006 Shinya Yamanaka discovered how intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells. By introducing only a few genes, he could reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells, that is, immature cells that are able to develop into all types of cells in the body. His work is transforming stem cell medicine and many Australian researchers are now using his induced pluripotent stem cells to develop stem cell medicine.

Australian science changing Japan

It’s not a one way trade. Japanese lives are being improved by Australian inventions such as the bionic ear, gum that repairs tooth decay, sleep disorder treatments, lithium to treat bipolar disorder, aircraft black boxes, and anti-flu drugs, which are all in daily use in Japan.

And when you connect to a fast and reliable wi-fi network you can thank Australian astronomers who were searching for black holes and created tools for cleaning up radio waves.

Collaborating for the future

Today there are hundreds of thriving Australia–Japan research collaborations, many of which will have a profound impact on our lives in the years ahead.

Over the past five years, Japan has consistently placed within the 10 countries that have the highest number of collaborations with Australian researchers on Australian Research Council–funded projects. The ARC reports that the most popular disciplines for collaboration with Japan are: material engineering; biochemistry and cell biology; atomic, molecular, nuclear, particle and plasma physics; astronomical and space sciences and plant biology.

Other collaborations

Seeing every cell in a whole adult brain
Scientists from RIKEN, the University of Tokyo, JAST, and the Queensland University of Technology have developed CUBIC—a technique for rapidly imaging the brain. They believe it will be scalable to whole bodies.

Biomedical applications for ‘magic crystals’
CSIRO and Osaka Prefecture University are developing biomedical applications for the massively absorbent metal–organic framework crystals developed by CSIRO.

How our phones track us
Billions of us now have phones that tell us and others where we are and what’s around us. A team from RMIT, Intel, Fudan University and Keio University is exploring the cross-cultural and intergenerational study of this phenomenon, and the implications for privacy, in three key sites: Tokyo, Shanghai and Melbourne.

For more information: Science in Public, www.scienceinpublic.com.au/stories/japan

No more twinkle, junk and stars, now we know just where you are

Technology that ‘de-twinkles’ stars is being used to pinpoint manmade space junk and avoid devastating collisions like those dramatised in the movie Gravity.

Artist’s impression of the Giant Magellan Telescope with the laser guide beams of its adaptive optics system. Credit: GMTO Corporation

Australian company Electro Optic Systems, based on Mount Stromlo in Canberra, is using adaptive optics and pulsing lasers to locate detritus too small for conventional radar. Ultimately, the company hopes to use similar lasers to remove the debris from orbit.

Adaptive optics helps the pulsing lasers to cut through the Earth’s atmospheric turbulence, which distorts and scatters light, by using a second orange-coloured laser to illuminate sodium atoms in the upper atmosphere.

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Wombat puts electric rocket through its paces

A new breed of spacecraft engine is undergoing its first indoor test flights, thanks to a giant ‘wombat’ on the outskirts of Australia’s capital.

Australian Plasma Thruster being tested in the Space Simulation Facility at Mount Stromlo. Credit: Naomi Mathers, ANU

The Australian National University has developed a plasma thruster that uses electricity to ionise gas and produce thrust, allowing the engine to run for longer and with much less fuel than a chemical rocket.

This makes it ideal for manoeuvring satellites in orbit, or for extended voyages to places like Mars. However, rocket manufacturers need to be sure it works before trusting it on multimillion-dollar satellites.

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