Earth is a rather special place, quite unlike the other planets in the solar system. It’s nestled at the perfect distance from the sun to allow our water to remain liquid and for life to flourish in turn. It’s a rare thing; most planets are either too close and scorching hot, or too far and freezing cold.
NASA is always on the hunt for planets like our own, and recently found a new super-Earth by the name of TOI-715b. The planet is larger than our own, but it’s position and makeup mean that it’s a prime candidate for further study. Let’s take a look at how NASA discovered this planet, and why it’s special.
It’s 2024. NASA’s Artemis program is in full swing, and we’re hoping to get back to the surface of the Moon real soon. Astronauts haven’t walked on the beloved sky rock since 1972! A human landing was scheduled for 2025, which has now been pushed back to 2026, and we’re all getting a bit antsy about it. Last time we wanted to go, it only took 8 years!
Now, somehow, it’s harder, but NASA also has its sights set higher. It no longer wants to just toddle about the Moon for a bit to wave at the TV cameras. This time, there’s talk of establishing permanent bases on the Moon, and actually doing useful work, like mining. It’s a tantalizing thought, but what does this mean for the sanctity of one of the last pieces of real estate yet to be spoilt by humans? Researchers are already arguing that we need to move to protect this precious, unique environment.
Is the unmistakable sound of the shuffling of LEGO pieces being dug through burned into your psyche? Did the catalog of ever more complex Technic pieces send your imagination soaring into the stratosphere and beyond? Judging by the artful contraption in the video below the break, we are fairly certain that [Marian] can relate to these things.
No doubt inspired by classic orreries driven by clockwork, [Marian]’s LEGO Sun-Earth-Moon orrery is instead driven by either hand cranks or by electric motors. The orrery aims to be astronomically correct. To that end, a full revolution of a hand crank produces a full day’s worth of movement.
Solar and lunar eclipses can be demonstrated, along with numerous other principals such as the tilt of the earth, moon phases, tidal locking, and more, which can be found at the project page.
While classical orreries predate the Victorian era, there seems to be an almost inexplicable link between orreries and the Steampunk aesthetic. But [Marian]’s orrery brought the term “LEGOpunk” to mind. Could it be? Given that there are 2305 pieces and 264 pages of instructions with 436 steps, we think so!
The build consists of an Arduino Nano driving a stepper motor, which turns a 3D printed model of the Earth through 360 degrees each day. The Earth is rotated within a black shroud such that the current portion of the Earth seeing sunlight is the visible section on the clock, while the rest is hidden from view. There’s a three-stage planetary gear reduction which turns a date wheel connected to the black shroud so that the clock remains accurate throughout the year. The gear ratio isn’t perfect — [Simon] calculates its drift to be 20 hours over a year -but it’s close enough for the clock’s given purpose of being a cool thing.
The clock looks great, and a lot of that is down to [Simon]’s careful work painting the Earth to match the real thing based on Google’s satellite maps. Incidentally it’s not the first Earth clock we’ve seen, either. We might just have to get building one for our own coffee table at home. Video after the break.
Homes in different parts of the world used to look different from each other out of necessity, built to optimize for the challenges and benefits of local climate. When residential climate control systems became commonplace that changed. Where a home in tropical south Florida once required very different building methods (and materials) compared to a home in the cold mountains of New England, essentially identical construction methods are now used for single-family homes in any climate. The result is inefficient and virtually indistinguishable housing from coast to coast, regardless of climate. As regions throughout the world are facing increasingly dire housing shortages, the race is on to find solutions that are economical and available to us right now.
The mission of CalEarth, one of the non-profits that Hackaday has teamed up with for this year’s Hackaday Prize, is to address that housing shortage by building energy-efficient homes out of materials already available in the areas that they will be built. CalEarth specializes in building adobe, or earth, homes that have a large thermal mass and an inexpensive bill of materials. Not only does this save on heating and cooling costs, but transportation costs for materials can be reduced as well. Some downside to this method of construction are increased labor costs and the necessity of geometric precision of the construction method, both of which are tackled in this two-month design challenge.
For the average person, a government order to shelter in place or stay at home comes with some adjustments. Many changes are cerebral: we navigate vast expanses of togetherness with our families while figuring out how to balance work, life, and newfound teaching roles. Other changes are physical, like giving each other enough space to be successful. A lucky few can say that not much has changed for them personally. No matter what your position is in this thing, if you have a place to shelter, you’re doing better than 20% of the world’s population.
An estimated 1.6 billion people, including those who are homeless and those who are refugees, are living without adequate shelter. The need for shelter is a cornerstone of human well-being, and yet building a home for oneself can seem totally out of reach. After all, most people aren’t qualified to build a habitable structure without an architect, an engineer or two, and a team of construction workers with heavy equipment. Or are they?
It all depends on the design and materials. Dome structures have been around for centuries, and the idea of using packed earth to build walls is a tried and true concept. Architect Nader Khalili perfected a blend of the two concepts with his SuperAdobe construction system, which employs long sandbags filled with moistened earth. Khalili opened the California Institute of Earth Architecture (CalEarth) in 1991 to explore the possibilities of SuperAdobe and to educate others in the building process.
I grew up among the poor. I am one of nine children, and constantly knew need. I never forgot, so now I’m responding. — Nader Khalili
This year, the Hackaday Prize is teaming up with CalEarth to push their widely accessible concept of sustainable living into the future. As with our other three non-profits, this effort is twofold. The open call challenge invites you to design sustainable add-ons for SuperAdobe homes that expand their livability and are simple to build and use. Throughout June and July, our CalEarth Dream Team members are working to find ways to automate the process so that these homes can be built much faster, and in turn help more people.
With the June solstice right around the corner, it’s a perfect time to witness first hand the effects of Earth’s axial tilt on the day’s length above and beyond 60 degrees latitude. But if you can’t make it there, or otherwise prefer a more regular, less deprived sleep pattern, you can always resort to simulations to demonstrate the phenomenon. [SimonRob] for example built a clock with a real time rotating model of Earth to visualize its exposure to the sun over the year.
The daily rotating cycle, as well as Earth’s rotation within one year, are simulated with a hand painted plastic ball attached to a rotating axis and mounted on a rotating plate. The hand painting was done with a neat trick; placing printed slivers of an atlas inside the transparent orb to serve as guides. Movement for both axes are driven by a pair of stepper motors and a ring of LEDs in the same diameter as the Earth model is used to represent the Sun. You can of course wait a whole year to observe it all in real time, or then make use of a set of buttons that lets you fast forward and reverse time.