Great Barrier Reef Near Whitsunday Islands

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station used a powerful lens to photograph these three reefs in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on Oct. 12, 2015. Reefs are easy to spot from space because the iridescent blues of shallow lagoons contrast sharply with the dark blues of deep water.

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Great Barrier Reef Near Whitsunday Islands

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station used a powerful lens to photograph these three reefs in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on Oct. 12, 2015. Reefs are easy to spot from space because the iridescent blues of shallow lagoons contrast sharply with the dark blues of deep water.

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OSCAR News Issue 214

Oscar News 214 front coverIssue 214 of the AMSAT-UK amateur radio satellite publication OSCAR News was released on May 30, 2016. E-members can download it here.

The paper edition is usually posted 2-3 weeks after publication of the electronic issue.

In this issue:
• Es’hail 2 – the first Phase 4 Amateur Satellite
• Damage to the glass in the ISS Cupola Module
• New IARU Satellite Adviser appointed
• ESA Parabolic Flight Coordinator
• Updates on the FUNcube Project
• More news from ESA
• QB50 project update
• Status of Satellites with Transponders on Amateur Satellite Frequencies
• Notice of the 2016 Annual General Meeting of AMSAT-UK
• ARISS contacts – the inside story and (a few of) the lessons learnt
• AMSAT-UK 2016 Colloquium
• 2016 Events and Meetings Calendar

AMSAT-UK FUNcube Mission Patch

AMSAT-UK FUNcube Mission Patch

Membership of AMSAT-UK is open to anyone who has an interest in amateur radio satellites or space activities, including the International Space Station (ISS).

E-members of AMSAT-UK are able to download OSCAR News as a convenient PDF that can be read on laptops, tablets or smartphones anytime, anyplace, anywhere. Join as an E-member at Electronic (PDF) E-membership

There are two rates for the paper edition to cover the extra postage costs:
Rest of the World (Overseas)

PDF sample copy of “Oscar News” here.

Join AMSAT-UK using PayPal, Debit or Credit card at

E-members can download their copies of OSCAR News here.

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Space Station Mercury

On 9 May Mercury passed in front of the Sun as seen from Earth. These transits of Mercury occur only around 13 times every century, so astronomers all over Earth were eager to capture the event.

For astrophotographer Thierry Legault, capturing Mercury and the Sun alone was not enough, however – he wanted the International Space Station in the frame as well.

To catch the Station passing across the Sun, you need to set up your equipment within a ground track less than 3 km wide. For Thierry, this meant flying to the USA from his home near Paris, France.

On 9 May there were three possible areas to capture the Station and Mercury at the same time against the solar disc: Quebec, Canada, the Great Lakes and Florida, USA.

Choosing the right spot took considerable effort, says Thierry: “Canada had bad weather predicted and around Florida I couldn’t find a suitably quiet but public place, so I went to the suburbs of Philadelphia.”

With 45 kg of equipment, Thierry flew to New York and drove two hours to Philadelphia to scout the best spot. Even then, all the preparations and intercontinental travel could have been for nothing because the Station crosses the Sun in less than a second and any clouds could have ruined the shot.

“I was very lucky: 10 minutes after I took the photos, clouds covered the sky,” says a relieved Thierry.

“Adrenaline flows in the moments before the Station flies by – it is a one-shot chance. I cannot ask the space agencies to turn around so I can try again. Anything can happen.”

The hard work and luck paid off. The image here includes frames superimposed on each other to show the Station’s path. Mercury appears as a black dot at bottom-centre of the Sun.

For Thierry, the preparation and the hunt for the perfect shot is the best part.

“Astrophotography is my hobby that I spend many hours on, but even without a camera I encourage everybody to look up at the night sky. The International Space Station can be seen quite often and there are many more things to see. It is just a case of looking up at the right time.”

Watch a video of the pass, including another moment with an aircraft flying by. 

Visit Thierry’s homepage here:

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ARISS School Contacts on Local Radio

Pete M0PSX had the opportunity to talk about ARISS and amateur radio during a radio show aired on Basildon Hospital Radio and community station Gateway FM.

The interview was broadcast on 1287 AM, 97.8 FM, via the patient bedside system at Basildon Hospital, and online via both station’s Internet streams.

In the interview, Pete discussed the perception of amateur radio, how the hobby has kept pace with technology, and some of the activities taking place in Essex. There was also some discussion of the various Tim Peake ARISS contacts, plus a short extract of the first ARISS Tim Peake contact, with Sandringham School in St Albans.

Read the full report and listen to the recording at

The interview was arranged by the Chair of Basildon Hospital Radio Jacqui James M3TWO. Jacqui took the amateur radio Foundation training course run by the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society. The find out more the course contact the CARS Training Manager at:
Email: training2016 <at>

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ARISS contact in The Observer newspaper

ARISS UK Team with UKSA's Libby Jackson and Susan Buckle at The Kings School - Credit Goonhilly GES Ltd

ARISS UK Team with UKSA’s Libby Jackson and Susan Buckle at The Kings School – Credit Goonhilly GES Ltd

Carole Cadwalladr writes in The Observer newspaper for Sunday, May 29 about the amateur radio contact between students at The King’s School GB1OSM, Ottery St Mary, Devon and Tim Peake GB1SS on the International Space Station.

She says:

A huge team of volunteers worked flat out to make it happen. The project was initiated by ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station), enthusiasts who work with space agencies all over the world to inspire children about space and technology. Ciaran Morgan M0XTD, its UK leader, tells me how they approached the European Space Agency and persuaded them to let them do it and how the rest has been down to the volunteers. “All Tim has to do is put on his headphones and press a button. We do everything else.”

Ten people spent three days setting up the equipment, the audio feeds, the video feed and the satellite backup at Goonhilly, down the road in Cornwall. “All amateur means is ‘for the love of it’,” Morgan tells the audience. “As you see, the equipment we’re using is very, very professional.”

Read the full story at

Watch the video of the contact at

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS)

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A golden veil cloaks a newborn star

This young star is breaking out. Like a hatchling pecking through its shell, this particular stellar newborn is forcing its way out into the surrounding Universe.

The golden veil of light cloaks a young stellar object known only as IRAS 14568-6304. It is ejecting gas at supersonic speeds and eventually will have cleared a hole in the cloud, allowing it to be easily visible to the outside Universe.

Stars are born deep in dense clouds of dust and gas. This particular cloud is known as the Circinus molecular cloud complex. It is 2280 light-years away and stretches across 180 light-years of space. If our eyes could register the faint infrared glow of the gas in the cloud, it would stretch across our sky more than 70 times the size of the full Moon. It contains enough gas to make 250 000 stars like the Sun.

IRAS 14568-6304 was discovered with the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, launched in 1983 as a joint project of the US, the UK and the Netherlands to make the first all-sky infrared survey from space.

This particular image was taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. It is a combination of just two wavelengths: optical light (blue) and infrared (golden orange). The dark swath running across the image is the Circinus molecular cloud, which is so dense that it obscures the stars beyond.

At longer infrared wavelengths, this darkness is filled with point-like stars, all deeply embedded and which will one day break out like IRAS 14568-6304 is doing.

Indeed, IRAS 14568-6304 is just one member of a nest of young stellar objects in this part of Circinus, each of which is producing jets. Put together, they make up one of the brightest, most massive and most energetic outflows that astronomers have yet observed. In years to come, they will be a beautiful, brightly visible star cloud.

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AIM: Asteroid touchdown

As part of ESA’s proposed Asteroid Impact Mission would come the Agency’s next landing on a small body since Rosetta’s Philae lander reached 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in 2014.

In 2022 the Mascot-2 microlander would be deployed from the main AIM spacecraft to touch down on the approximately 170-m diameter ‘Didymoon’, in orbit around the larger 700-m diameter Didymos asteroid.

The 15 kg Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout-2 (Mascot-2) is building on the heritage of DLR’s Mascot-1 already flying on Japan’s Hayabusa-2. Launched in 2014, the latter will land on asteroid Ryugu in 2018.

Mascot-2 would be deployed from AIM at about 5 cm/s, and remain in contact with its mothership as it falls through a new inter-satellite communications system. Didymoon’s gravity levels will only be a few thousandths of Earth’s, so the landing would be relatively gentle, although multiple bounces may take place before it comes to rest.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) would help AIM to pinpoint its microlander’s resting place from orbit. In case of a landing in a non-illuminated area, a spring-like ‘mobility mechanism’ would let the microlander jump to another location. Onboard GNC ‘guidance navigation and control’ sensors would gather details of the landing both for scientific reasons and to determine the microlander’s orientation for deployment of the solar array to keep it supplied with sufficient power for several weeks of surface operations.

As well as a solar array, AIM would also deploy its low frequency radar LFR instrument, while cameras perform visible and thermal surface imaging. LFR would send radar signals right through the body, to be detected by AIM on Didymoon’s far side, to provide detailed subsurface soundings of an asteroid’s internal structure for the first time ever .

Then Mascot-2 would repeat these measurements after Didymoon has been impacted by the NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) probe, to assess the extent of structural changes induced by this impact event. AIM and DART together are known as the Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment mission.

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