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Hackaday Links: June 30, 2024

A couple of weeks back we featured a story (third item) about a chunk of space jetsam that tried to peacefully return to Earth, only to find a Florida family’s roof rudely in the way. The 700-gram cylinder of Inconel was all that was left of a 2,360-kg battery pack that was tossed overboard from the ISS back in 2021, the rest presumably turning into air pollution just as NASA had planned. But the surviving bit was a “Golden BB” that managed to slam through the roof and do a fair amount of damage. At the time it happened, the Otero family was just looking for NASA to cover the cost of repairs, but now they’re looking for a little more consideration. A lawsuit filed by their attorney seeks $80,000 to cover the cost of repairs as well as compensation for the “stress and impact” of the event. This also seems to be about setting a precedent, since the Space Liability Convention, an agreement to which the USA is party, would require the space agency to cover damages if the debris had done damage in another country. The Oteros think the SLC should apply to US properties as well, and while we can see their point, we’d advise them not to hold their breath. We suppose something like this had to happen eventually, and somehow we’re not surprised to see “Florida Man” in the headlines.

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Hackaday Links: June 2, 2024

So you say you missed the Great Solar Storm of 2024 along with its attendant aurora? We feel you on that; the light pollution here was too much for decent viewing, and it had been too long a day to make a drive into the deep dark of the countryside survivable. But fear not — the sunspot that raised all the ruckus back at the beginning of May has survived the trip across the far side of the sun and will reappear in early June, mostly intact and ready for business. At least sunspot AR3664 seems like it’s still a force to be reckoned with, having cooked off an X-class flare last Tuesday just as it was coming around from the other side of the Sun. Whether 3664 will be able to stir up another G5 geomagnetic storm remains to be seen, but since it fired off an X-12 flare while it was around the backside, you never know. Your best bet to stay informed in these trying times is the indispensable Dr. Tamitha Skov.

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Hackaday Links: May 19, 2024

If there was one question we heard most often this week, it was “Did you see it?” With “it” referring to the stunning display of aurora borealis — and australis, we assume — on and off for several days. The major outburst here in North America was actually late last week, with aurora extending as far south as Puerto Rico on the night of the tenth. We here in North Idaho were well-situated for prime viewing, but alas, light pollution made things a bit tame without a short drive from the city lights. Totally worth it:

Hat tip to Tom Maloney for the pics. That last one is very reminiscent of what we saw back in 1989 with the geomagnetic storm that knocked Québec’s grid offline, except then the colors were shifted much more toward the red end of the spectrum back then.

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Hackaday Links: March 24, 2024

Way to rub it in, guys. As it turns out, due to family and work obligations we won’t be able to see the next Great American Eclipse, at least not from anywhere near the path of totality, when it sweeps from Mexico into Canada on April 8. And that’s too bad, because compared to the eclipse back in 2017, “Eclipse 2: Solar Boogaloo” is occurring during a much more active phase in the solar cycle, with the potential for some pretty exciting viewing. The sun regularly belches out gigatons of plasma during coronal mass ejections (CMEs), most of which we can’t see with the naked eye because not only is staring at the sun not a great idea, but most of that activity occurs across the disk of the sun, obscuring the view in the background light. But during the eclipse, we — oops, you — might just get lucky enough to have a solar prominence erupt along the limb of the sun that will be visible during totality. The sun has been quite active lately, as reflected by the relatively high sunspot number, so even though it’s an outside chance, it’s certainly more likely than it was in 2017. Good luck out there.  Continue reading “Hackaday Links: March 24, 2024”

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Hackaday Links: November 5, 2023

As I write this, Supercon 2023 is in full swing down in Pasadena — 80 degrees and sunny at the moment, as opposed to 50 and pouring rain where I am, not that I’m bitter. Luckily, though, we can all follow along with the proceedings thanks to the livestreams on the Hackaday channel, which of course will all be available once they’re edited in case you miss anything live. There are a ton of interesting talks coming up, so there’ll be a lot to catch up on when the dust settles. And that won’t be far from now; by the time this post publishes, Supercon will be all but over, which makes it the Thanksgiving dinner of cons — all that work and it’s over in just a few minutes.

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Hackaday Links: June 26, 2022

Head for the hills!! We’re all doomed! At least that’s the impression you might get from the headlines about the monster Earth-facing sunspot this week. While any sunspot that doubles in size within a matter of days as AR3038 has done is worth looking at, chances are pretty low that it will cause problems here on Earth. About the best this class of sunspot can manage is an M-class solar flare, which generally cause radio blackouts only at the poles, and may present a radiation problem for the crew of the ISS. So no, this sunspot is probably not going to kill us all. But then again, this is the 2020s, and pretty much everything bad seems like it’s possible.

Speaking of bad outcomes, pity the poor Sonos customers and their ongoing battle with the company’s odd “glitches.” For whatever reason, customers have been getting shipments of Sonos products they never ordered, with at least one customer getting over $15,000 worth of products shipped. The customer reports ordering five Sonos items, but the company saw fit to fill the order six times, stuffing their apartment with goods. Sonos doesn’t appear to be doing much to make it right; while offering the customer free shipping labels to return the goods, they were expected to schlep the packages to a UPS store. And then there’s the money — Sonos charged the customer for all the unordered goods, and won’t issue a refund till it’s all returned.

If you’ve ever wondered exactly what the signals going up and down your cable line look like, you’ll want to check out this video from Double A Labs. Using an RTL-SDR dongle and some spectrum analyzer software they probed the RF signals on the cable, with some fascinating results. The first 11 minutes or so of the video are devoted to setting up the hardware and software, although there is some interesting stuff about broadband network architecture right up at the start. The scans are interesting — you can clearly see the 6-MHz quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) digital channels. We were surprised to learn that these start at just about the FM broadcast band — about 108 MHz. There were a couple of little surprises hiding in the spectrum, like two unmodulated analog TV carriers in one spot, and the fact that there are over 400 virtual channels jammed into 41 6-MHz QAM channels. Broadband indeed.

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