HAMNET Report 24th November 2019

The ARES E-letter reports that twenty-four operators from the Tallahassee Amateur Radio Society (TARS) and the Thomasville Amateur Radio Club (TARC) provided communication support for the Capital City Cyclists (CCC) 35th annual Spaghetti 100 Bicycle Ride on November the 9th. The Spaghetti 100 funds the Kids on Bikes program, which teaches hundreds of elementary school children how to ride a bike and ride it safely in traffic. It also helps to support the Trips for Kids chapter, which takes disadvantaged youth on bike rides on local trails.

The hams used one of the TARS VHF repeaters to provide communications for safety and logistics, as well as for the medical and mechanical teams. The ham radio support was vital for this 100 mile route on the back country roads of northern Florida and southern Georgia where cell phone coverage is very sparse. “When All Else Fails” came to mind when the land line at the location serving as the ride’s headquarters was out for several hours leaving Amateur Radio as the only communications service for some areas. “In addition to the thanks given by most of the bicyclists as they passed by, event sponsors expressed their appreciation for the work of the ham radio volunteers and were impressed with the capabilities of Amateur Radio,” Communications Coordinator Stan Zawrotny, K4SBZ, said.

Thank you to ARES for these notes.

Now from universetoday.com comes a story that is blowing my mind.

On May 20th, 2018, the China National Space Agency (CNSA) launched the Queqiao spacecraft, the vehicle that would deliver the Chang’e-4 mission to the Moon. This vehicle was also responsible for transporting a lesser-known mission to the Moon, known as the Longjiang twin spacecraft. This package consisted of two satellites designed to fly in formation and validate technologies for low-frequency radio astronomy.

While Queqiao flew beyond the Moon to act as a communications relay for the Chang’e-4 lander, the Longjiang satellites were to enter orbit around the moon. On July 31st, 2019, after more than a year in operation, the Longjiang-2 satellite deorbited and crashed on the lunar surface. And thanks to the efforts of spacecraft tracker Daniel Estévez and his colleagues, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was able to photograph the impact site.

Among amateur astronomists and citizen scientists, Daniel Estévez is a well-known figure. In addition to being an amateur radio operator with a PhD in Mathematics and a BSc in Computer Science, Estévez is also an amateur spacecraft tracker. It was he who, in May of 2019, made an official estimate on when the Longjiang-2 satellite would crash on the lunar surface.

Based on his calculations, he determined the impact would take place somewhere within Van Gent crater on July 31st. This small impact crater is located on the far side of the Moon and is situated to the south and southeast of the larger Konstantinov crater. These results were then passed on to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team, who made sure their instrument was trained on the coordinates.

On October 5th, 2019, the LRO passed over the site at an altitude of 122 km and snapped several images of the surface. After carefully comparing them to pre-existing NAC images, the LROC team was able to discern the presence of a new impact crater that was roughly 4 by 5 meters in diameter and about 10 meters in depth.

This places the new crater just 328 metres from Estévez’s estimated crash site. Based on this proximity to the estimated coordinates and the size of the impact crater, the LROC team indicated that they are “fairly confident that this new crater formed as a result of the Longjiang-2 impact.”

On his website, Estévez captured the significance of this event eloquently and was sure to share the credit with those colleagues who helped make it possible:

“This is amazing, as in some way it represents the definitive end of the DSLWP-B mission (besides all the science data we still need to process) and it validates the accuracy of the calculations we did to locate the crash site. I feel that I should give due credit to all the people involved in the location of the impact.”

Moreover, it demonstrates the important role played by amateur astronomers and citizen scientists in the current era of space exploration. Kudos to Estévez and his colleagues! Not bad for an amateur tracker!

May I suggest you point your browser to universetoday.com, and scroll down to the entry dated 19th November, of the discovery of the crash site, to look at two photos, taken 3 months apart, of that crash site, clearly showing the crater formed between the times the two photos were taken?

Just to make the point, this amateur’s estimation was just further than 3 rugby fields out in his calculation of where the failing Chinese satellite was eventually going to hit the moon, about 384400km away, on the far side, which has been seen only in photographs, and without knowing the true topography of the surface in the area! Phenomenal!

Equally phenomenal is the fact that the camera on the orbiter could clearly define an area 4x5m (probably smaller than the room you are sitting in as you listen to this), from a distance of 122km above the moon’s surface!

We end with a good news story from Australia. CityNews reports that, during an Australian bush fire, a lady heard an aging Koala bear wailing in pain, hanging from a tree trunk, very close to the intense heat of the fire, and clearly having already sustained multiple burns on his body.

Toni Doherty took off her tee-shirt, caught the koala with it to try to put out its burning fur, and rushed it to a water source, where she was able to douse the flames on the fur of its back legs, cool its burns, and give it life-saving water to drink.

The little guy, since named Lewis, estimated to be elderly in Koala terms, was rushed to an animal welfare hospital, where he was given oxygen via face mask because of singe wounds to his lungs, and found to have partial thickness burns on many parts of his body, including his snout, and more severe burns on his hands and feet. It appears he is slowly starting to recover, and back to eating his staple diet of Eucalyptus leaves!

Lewis seems to have been lucky. The news reports from Southern Australia estimate that up to 350 Koalas may have died already, in the multiple big bush fires currently affecting those parts of the continent.

Altogether now – “Ag man, Shame”!

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.