Thursday, March 20, 2008

So who did mention geostationary telecom sats first?

Arthur C. Clarke will be buried - in a strictly secular ceremony - on Saturday, and few of the uncountable obituaries fail to mention that he 'predicted' or even 'invented' the idea of geostationary satellites for telecommunications, like the one launched last night. Even Eutelsat is celebrating him as the Father of the Geostationary Orbit, but this is not the case: The all-knowing Wikipedia tells us that the "idea of a geosynchronous satellite for communication purposes was first published in 1928 by Herman Poto─Źnik" alias Hermann Noordung, and that Clarke role was that of a popularizer of the concept. In his famous Oct. 1945 Wireless World paper Clarke indeed quoted Noordung and others - and a recent study showed that the special role of the geostationary orbit was pointed out even in the 19th century. Clarke struggled in vain to set the record straight during his lifetime, now it may be even harder ...

Meanwhile many more obituaries and tributes to Arthur C. Clarke have come in, e.g. from an Indian SF author, in a Sri Lankan editorial or an Indian Leader or in the LA and NY Times' or Physics World. Details about his last interview, a growing collection of tributes and the strange travels of some Clarke DNA are there, a 1977 article on a rare U.S. visit has been re-published, and we even learned how to hold a moment of silence in cyberspace ... The fascination of space lives on, of course, and if it comes in the form the recovered video tapes from the STS-123 SRBs: The best 'action' starts at 2:08, 4:35, 5:35, 7:40 and 10:05!

In other news a real unknown impact crater seems to have been discovered via Google Earth. • The MIT has students hunt asteroids via remote observing at the IRTF. • The NASA Eclipse Website has moved to a new URL and older ones will vanish; you find here e.g. all Eclipse Bulletins or info on the next TSE. • There has been no NOAA update on the coming 24th solar cycle for 11 months now, because these predictions are hard near the current minimum, but predictions by a single researcher now see a steep rise in sunspots beginning later this year. • Meanwhile be happy with three prominences seen today.

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