It’s probably safe to say that most of us have had enough Big Balloon Fields to last the rest of 2023 and beyond. It’s been a week or two since something bad was spotted in America and then exploded in a hole, at least that we know of, so maybe we can put this all behind us.
But as a parting gift, we’re presenting what may be the best selfie of the year — a photo from the U-2 spy plane pilot’s balloon that started it all. Without being deceptive, the picture is amazing; Not only does it capture the U-2 pilot ascending the balloon, but it shows the shadow cast by the spy plane on the top of the balloon.
The picture also shows the size of this object; someone with more math skills than us could probably figure out the exact size of the balloon from the size of the U-2’s shadow, actually.
On the other hand, maybe you’re sick of the whole balloon thing and pine for the days when the skies are filled with them. Spoiler alert: always has been, and still is. Between the hundreds of radiosondes that are sent out twice a day to the hundreds of “pico balloons” that people want to launch just for fun, there’s a lot going on out there. And if you want to simulate where one of these balloons might end up, check out Spy Balloon Simulator. You can plant a balloon over the world at any time and see where it ends up based on historical weather data. The model seems to make some assumptions about length, and the launch date seems to be fixed at November 11, 2022, so there are important limitations. But in the future he says that it’s just a joke, and it’s really good to see that almost every road goes into some kind of situation, where the balloon just gets stuck before moving on.
In astronomy news, while James Webb gets most of the attention these days, there are many other telescopes doing interesting work as well. And one of them took one of the most amazing pictures we’ve ever seen – direct images of a bright light orbiting its star. Traditionally, exoplanets are observed indirectly, by looking at the deep dip in the star’s light as its planet passes between it and us, for example. But this time, the Very Large Telescope in Chile used a detector to sweep the light from the star AF Leporis in the constellation Lepus (or we’ve never heard of it before) and directly to one of the stars of the system.
The planet is huge, about five or six times the size of Jupiter, which is quite large considering that the star is about the size of the Sun. What’s more, the entire system is almost new – only about 24 million years old and only about 87 light years away. So watching this system is almost real-time watching both stars and star formation.
And finally, with so few brick and mortar electronics discount stores left, it’s sad to hear of someone falling on hard times. That seems to be the case, though, so we’re not surprised to hear of a long-time surplus trader feeling the harsh reality.
P&T Surplus, located in Kingston, NY, has been a local trend watcher for many years. Being close to where IBM has a large factory, P&T is well positioned to buy scrap machines, excess equipment, and large quantities of parts and resell them to a large customer base. Over the years, though, the industry has closed and closed source after source of surplus, and the customer base has changed as well. Squeezed from both sides and suffering from disease, the owners are now behind their rent and have turned to the crowd in hopes of overcoming them. If you’re in the area, now might be a good time to stop by to see if there’s anything you need.
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