Wrath of the Gourds

Wrath of the Gourds

June 7, 2011

It’s going to be a bad year for blossom-end rot around these parts. It most commonly occurs when the growing season begins wet and turns dry when vegetable plants are fruiting. It’s been a very wet spring, and that’s already begun to taper off. Consider that your gardening tip for the day. Have you seen the Spacelink satellite train yet? I have. I tend to sit out after dark, and I’ve seen such trains in several stages of deployment. The first time, a few weeks ago, we observed a satellite overhead, which is always cause for low-level excitement. After all, satellites and meteors are the headliners most nights. Then, wow! About 30 seconds later there was a second satellite behind the first, on the same trajectory. You don’t see that every day. About 30 seconds after that a third satellite came along! Our excitement level rose and eventually plateaued as we stopped counting at about 45 satellites. A few days later I witnessed something similar as another satellite train passed overhead; this time, however, they had dispersed somewhat; each satellite was about two minutes apart. Then, last night, I saw a “train” pass over that had been placed in orbit just the day before. There were approximately 60 satellites, grouped in a close line and simultaneously visible, strung out like the tail of a meteor but moving at the speed of a passing satellite. This is all part of the effort by a private company, SpaceX, to construct practically global, space-based internet connectivity. Before they are finished, there could be 30,000 of their satellites in orbit, many passing overhead at any given time. What I want to know is: did anyone discuss this with you?

49 responses to “Wrath of the Gourds”

  1. The Starlink satellites you saw have been a hot topic with my astronomy club. We’re hoping the latest group, when fully deployed, will succeed in reducing their visibility. We don’t mind the idea of worldwide, low-cost Internet for everyone. But there’s supposed to be over 40,000 of them eventually. And when you’re trying to see or photograph dim galaxies and nebulas, being photobombed by satellites is annoying. Having them broadcasting to each other isn’t too good for radio astronomy either.

  2. I’ve read that a lot of professional astronomers are not best pleased with this also.

    My favorite conspiracy theory about it all is that Elon Musk is an alien (a la The Man Who Fell to Earth, a great movie, btw, with David Bowie) and he’s deliberately obscuring the view of space in order to hide the approaching invasion force.

    • BillR:

      The novel upon which the movie is based is even better. That’s strictly my opinion, of course.

      Speaking of Bowie, an advertising photo from the movie was on the cover of “Low,” the first of three albums that Brian Eno and Bowie recorded together. It’s my favorite Bowie album.

      In 2005, we saw him in concert at the now-demolished Veterans Memorial in Columbus. Tremendous evening, although, in quite a few ways, I felt as if I were in Hawthorne’s “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment.”

  3. BillR, I’m not sure an alien invasion would be such a bad thing, the way things are going this year. As long as they don’t bring a book titled “To Serve Man.”.

  4. I heard that the Alien Invasion was planned for 2020, but was cancelled due to the Corronavirus. Not that they thought that they would get it, but they saw how we were acting and decided that it wasn’t worth it 😛

    I hope this doesn’t come up twice. I sent it and nothing appeared….

  5. I also have an interest in astronomical things and events so I’ll investigate the satellite trains. Sounds like the technology will be used for “good”. But not surprisingly, could also be used for “bad”. Plus, it’s just more evidence that humans have the need to litter everywhere – even in space.

    • We’re not only polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink (though neither as badly as 60+ years ago when I was born), we’re obliterating the night sky with light pollution. A good resource to see how far you’d need to travel to get to truly dark skies:

      To find a place start typing its name into the Search places… box. Select the location from the resulting drop-down menu. You can also enter a place’s latitude and longitude, in either the traditional format with degrees, minutes, and seconds, or the digital format. BTW, when you use Google Maps the URL will contain the digital coordinates; for instance Meteor Crater in Arizona is at 35.0277544,-111.0243874.

  6. What passes for InterWebNet service in this neck o’ the Oklahoma woods often operates at near dial-up speeds. (Remember dial-up service?) Except without the crazy sound effects.
    So, universal connectivity or a better view of the universe? TANSTAAFL.

  7. Sorry, you lost your chance to object 60 years ago. In the mid-’50s, when the U.S, intelligence community was considering putting up surveillance satellites, there was some concern about how the Russians would react. International law follows the principal “Ad coelum et ad inferos”: a property owner is entitled to an infinite vertical column of space defined by the horizontal boundaries of their estate. Theoretically, the Russians could legally shoot down a satellite crossing over their territory. The spooks thus were pleased when Sputnik went up.

    • We astronomers, both amateur and professional alike, were quite accustomed to the occasional satellite, seeing perhaps a dozen during a night of viewing. We have software that predicts their passage and, when doing astrophotography, erases them from our images. Some of the bigger satellites, like the ISS, are often targets for photography.
      Nothing prepared us for having so very many low-orbit satellites introduced to the situation. The early Starlink satellites were far brighter than anyone expected! Also, to be told there may soon be 42,000 in that one network alone and that other companies and countries are wanting to also put up their own networks… it’s appalling!

  8. To answer Jimmie’s question, I was completely unaware of the Starlink satellite train. I have a passing interest it such thinks, so I’m surprised to be uninformed. On another subject, my box of the Zapps’s variety pack of chips arrived via UPS a few minutes ago. I’m pretty sure they’re not going to last long. I do miss the original Seyfert’s.

  9. My son flies for Delta (for the time being, at least). One night several months ago, before there was much publicity about these, a train started appearing from across the horizon. He and the captain had several somewhat anxious moments wondering if WWIII was starting!

    • There once was a guy named Musk
      Whose motives we didn’t trust
      The lights in the sky
      Seem to multiply
      And someday will probably rust

      That’s a quick and dirty 5-minute acceptance of the challenge!

    • Up there? It’s just a new satellite.
      We hope it’s not meant for a battle light.
      Perhaps it’s to view
      You in your canoe
      And see if you learned how to paddle right.

  10. Ghost:

    (For some reason, my reply to you doesn’t appear. I will try it here.)

    The moon is indeed a harsh mistress.

  11. Thank you for bringing this to our attention! I know there have even been serious discussions about putting visible advertising into near-earth orbit, as a form of satellite, so that ads literally shine from the sky. To my knowledge, this has not yet been ruled out. The commercialization of space is a serious issue.

  12. There once was cowboy named Dwight,
    Who when travelling made quite a sight.
    Losing his horse somewhere near Boulder,
    He had to carry his tack on his shoulder.
    His trick was to always keep his saddle light.

  13. Boy, you have sparked a few comments with today’s strip! Personally. I believe we all need to take a breath, relax, and come off the edge.

    • Agreed, Ed. I am sure that, at some point in the future, there will be a dispassionate analysis of what we did right and what we did wrong, and what helped and what didn’t, in dealing with the COVID-19, and a factual after-action-report will be issued.
      Even if it is, so much of the public and the media will likely be so wrapped up in whatever our then-current existential crisis du jour is that relatively few will pay any attention to it.
      Cynical? Who, me?

      • Yikes, I guess it was a questionable choice of words, nothing subliminal meant by it as I hope you all know. Jimmy, thanks for the strip, we all need some humor these days. The old Boy Scout slogan “Do a good turn daily” brings a lot to the table.

  14. Steve from Royal Oak: In these days of communication via computer instead of face to face, I’m not biting my tongue. It’s more like getting finger cramp having to restrain myself from commenting on every post that looks like total idiocy to me. I have that blinding moment of “how could you say that?”, before realizing the best thing I can do is to hide the comment, and in some cases hide the commenter. I haven’t hidden any friends, but I have blocked out a number of sources they are quoting for the good of my blood pressure.

  15. After reading an expletive-filled posting by an in-law, I’ve decided to take a break from the newsfeeds on FB. I’m only going to follow my groups there, including the A&J one (of course!).

    • Of course! 🙂
      That’s easy for me. Up until very recently, I followed only The Village. Very recently, I finally opened a Instagram account, but with only two exceptions, I follow only companies in whose products I have an interest, and I have commented less than a handful of times. (Still no F***B*** or T****** accounts.) I figure the worst problem I can encounter on IG is spending money on things I don’t really need. 😀

  16. You know, I think the staff at Mad magazine must have foreseen the coming of social media years ago. They tended to always refer to the “usual gang of idiots”. Or maybe they were thinking of the news media, as they operate today.

  17. During a previous era when there was a serious anti-police movement (well, in the 60s, of course) a common saying was, “If someone is trying to break into your house, try calling a hippie.” No offense, but most of those hippies would be pushing 80 now. It might take a good while for one to arrive.

    • “But remember, ultimately police aren’t there to protect citizens from criminals, so much as to protect criminals from informal law enforcement at the hands of citizens.” Law Professor Glenn Reynolds
      As always, Be Careful What You Wish For is good advice.

  18. From “Life in the Slow Lane”: Life in the slow lane is not always a bad thing. For instance, yesterday, which I believe was the hottest day in eastern Oklahoma so far this year, the air conditioning in my vehicle (y’all remember Bullet, doncha?) shuffled off to Buffalo. Well, to Checotah, anyway, which is where I was headed.
    Parts on order by the local Ford dealer; repair slated for Wednesday morning. Fortunately, no medical trips to Tulsa for Jackie this week. I believe I shall stay en casa under the AC tomorrow and catch up on the boutique’s books and perhaps pull some preventive maintenance on a few of my shootin’ irons…just in case those elder hippies need some backup. 🙂

  19. Ghost – I am pushing 80 , it is not in the rearview mirror yet, most hippies are a lot younger than I.
    So they probably would get there sooner – Cane instead of Zimmer Frame – (Cynical observation deleted)

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