HAMNET Report 14th January 2024

On Friday, GDACS started reporting on a tropical cyclone called BELAL, which had arisen in the Indian Ocean, and is currently threatening Mauritius and Reunion, with winds currently in excess of 230km/h and travelling from Northeast to Southwest, more or less parallel to the Madagascan east coast. The two French islands are directly in its path, and the storm should pass over Mauritius and Reunion on the 16th of January. There are at least 958000 people in its predicted path, and we must hope the cyclone disperses a bit before Tuesday, to reduce likelihood of casualties.

KYODO News in Japan is reporting that in all likelihood the pilot of the small coast guard plane that was struck by the landing Japanese Airlines passenger craft on the runway did not hear the landing instructions given to the JAL aircraft because he was listening on another frequency. He therefore thought it safe to taxi on to the runway to prepare for take-off.

It was the third flight of this coast guard aircraft, ferrying assistance to the northwestern coast of the main island to help with earthquake mopping up operations. The JAL passenger aircraft was completely burnt out, but not before all passengers and crew safely disembarked. All four runways at Haneda airport were temporarily closed, but the three unaffected runways were reopened the same day.

Scientists at Tel Aviv University are proposing a radio astronomy telescope on the moon to detect radio waves emitted from the hydrogen gas that filled the universe millions of years ago, and which may contain clues about the cosmic dark ages before the first stars started forming.

Writing in ISRAEL21C, Abigail Leichman says the Tel Aviv group could be able to measure the weight of Neutrino particles and add to scientists’ limited knowledge about dark matter, the mysterious building block of outer space.

This study was led by Prof. Rennan Barkana’s research group, including the postdoctoral fellow Rajesh Mondal. Their novel conclusions have been published in Nature Astronomy.

The researchers explain that while every car has an antenna that detects radio waves, the specific waves from the early universe are blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere. They can only be studied from space, particularly the moon, which offers a stable environment, free of any interference from an atmosphere or from radio communications.

They say that putting a telescope on the moon isn’t an impossible dream, given that the United States, Europe, China and India are engaged in an international space race to return to the moon with space probes and, eventually, astronauts. Their research may intrigue one of these countries to try detecting radio waves from the cosmic dark ages.

Barkana explained: “NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope discovered recently distant galaxies whose light we receive from the cosmic dawn, around 300 million years after the Big Bang. Our new research studies an even earlier and more mysterious era: the cosmic dark ages, only 50 million years after the Big Bang.”

Barkana said that conditions in the early universe were quite different from today and that using radio observations to determine the density and temperature of hydrogen gas at various times can reveal what is still to be discovered.

Furthermore, a radio telescope consisting of an array of antennas could accurately determine the amount of hydrogen and of helium in the universe. Hydrogen is the original form of ordinary matter in the universe, from which stars, planets, and eventually life began.

Since the end of 2023, HAMNET Western Cape has developed closer ties with the Western Cape Repeater Working group, which maintains and repairs the repeaters we have dotted around here. After all, although the VHF and UHF repeaters are available for all amateurs to use, the grouping that really needs the repeaters to be working flawlessly, is HAMNET, because we are the most likely to be involved in search and rescue comms, or management of regional disasters of any sort.

HAMNET therefore regards it as essential that our repeater system does not fail. Maintenance and repair of repeaters requires the time of the volunteers who repair them, and funds to replace equipment or provide parts.

To this end, the company who advertises on the front page of your SARL website, Bombastik Radio Accessories has sponsored three groups of prizes so that the Repeater Working Group can run a raffle. Each ticket costs R99 and only 200 tickets will be sold. The raffle will be drawn once all 200 tickets are indeed sold.

The prizes? Well, first prize is a Bombastik 80-40-coil-5-6m-whip part number p609509252, plus a 1.2m copper spike and connectors and radials for the whip antenna, part number p611033292 (if you want to go and look on their website).

Second prize will be an end fed half wave antenna covering 10-40m, part number p607418904; and there will be three third prizes, of 2 antenna wire winders each, part number p611037766. The total value of all the prizes is more than R3550.

The raffle is open to anybody in South Africa, and you will see Bombastik’s email address and raffle contact details on their advertisement on the SARL webpage. Thank you to Marius ZS1ML, for the generous sponsorship. There are still some tickets available, so feel free to enter for the draw.

It appears that Curation team members at the Johnson Space Centre have been struggling to gain access to some of the sample material brought all the way back to earth from Asteroid Bennu last year.

NASA now says that the team successfully removed the two fasteners from the sampler head that had prevented the remainder of OSIRIS-REx’s asteroid Bennu sample material from being accessed. Steps are now underway to complete the disassembly of the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, or TAGSAM, head to reveal the rest of the rocks and dust delivered by NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission.

The remainder of the bulk sample will be fully visible after a few additional disassembly steps, at which point image specialists will take ultra-high-resolution pictures of the sample while it is still inside the TAGSAM head. This portion of the sample will then be removed and weighed, and the team will be able to determine the total mass of Bennu material captured by the mission.

How ridiculously frustrating? You bring a sample of asteroid material back after a multi-million kilometre trip, and then you can’t get at it, because the lid is stuck closed! I think I would long-since have resorted to a hammer by now!

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