Sunday, December 2, 2018

Superhighway in Space

In last week's blog post, I shared an image of the Orion Nebula.  This image had an odd artifact of what appeared to be an implausibly thin high altitude jet contrail streaking across a corner of the nebula.

While hoping that I had indeed captured Marvin the Martian and his intergalactic space cruiser returning from one of his epic Earth plundering exploits, I did some research and found a slightly less "tinfoil hat" explanation for the contrail.

In his 1945 paper, entitled "Extra-Terrestrial Relays — Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?", published in Wireless World magazine, Arthur C. Clarke gave wide exposure and details to the idea that satellites could be placed in geosynchronous orbit and be used to provide communications.

This orbit has come to be known as the Clarke Belt.

This is a screen capture from my LiveSky subscription, looking up toward Orion around midnight, December 1st 2018. (Click to enlarge.)

The Clarke Belt
The Orion Nebula is centered in this image and the Clarke Belt runs right through it!

The satellites are geosynchronous, but the night sky is not. So, the Orion Nebula moves behind the Clarke Belt and any cameras tracking it will capture the occasional smear of light reflecting off of the satellites.

This Youtube video shows it clearly.

Marvin, I'm still keeping my eye out for you.


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