The Kepler Satellite – Do You Have Any Idea What It Is?


I always enjoy running across NASA-related news.  What many people don’t know about NASA is that a whole bunch of their business is related to light – light from stars and light reflected off of planets (and moons) can tell us how far away something is located.  “Something,” in this case, could be a star system, supernova explosion, planet group, or something that sucks light – black holes, gas formations, and some really untalented lighting designers I know who have such large egos they have their own home light years from Earth.

So – now that my joke of the post has been launched and crashed into the ground a few feet from the launch pad (you liking all of these space puns?), this is all related to NASA’s Kepler Satellite Program.  It’s all named after Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), an astronomer that invented and discovered a lot of things still used in Astronomy today.  Kepler figured out that our planet (and others) rotates on its axis, explained how our vision and refraction are related, and among a ton of other stuff, explained total internal reflection.

The Kepler Satellite and program is new – Kepler launched in March 2009.  The Data that is being collected is really new, and really strange.  NASA peeps are still analyzing and collecting data – but what kind of data?

The gist of the Kepler program is to use a satellite with a powerful photometer inside that looks for really bright stars like our Sun that could have planetary systems revolving around them.  So, what does this mean?  It means the Kepler mission is seeking out planetary systems around a Sun-like star that could sustain life.  How cool is that?!  The image at the top of this post is the field of view of Kepler.

Ladies and Gentlemen – the Kepler Satellite:



This thing is pretty cool – a nearly meter and a half mirror inside directs light into the internal photometer and camera, which is 95 megapixels (42 CCDs with 2200×1024 pixels), from the NASA site on Kepler.  Check out the entirety of the specs here, on the Kepler satellite mission guide page.  Below is a starmap, with Kepler’s field of view (the group of squares):


Cool stuff!  Check out NASA’s Kepler Mission site.  Give them some traffic!

Thanks, NASA!

Beam Me Up, Scotty – Solar Power Collection In Space?


Are you familiar with the concept of solar power collection – in orbit?  It’s something that we’ve been working on for a while, some contracts have been signed, things are being studied, blah blah blah.  Basically – and I mean basically – the premise is that we collect solar power in satellites that are orbiting the earth.  The satellites then convert a large portion of this newly collected energy into a laser, which then shoots down through the atmosphere to some kind of device on Earth that then converts all of that laser beam into clean, useful energy from which everyone can benefit.

What’s the matter?  Is that a little too Battlestar Galactica for you?  Come on, I know you watch Battlestar Galactica.

Well, there are two major hurdles to this technology, and as you can imagine, the race to become the first company to put satellites into space to beam solar energy back to Earth.  The first hurdle is getting several (maybe 300) little satellites to beam their energy to one large satellite, which in turn would beam its energy back to Earth.  The other hurdle, as you might have guessed, is how do we get all of this gear into space? Lest we not forget also – how do we maintain it?  We employ armies of utility workers to keep up with our antiquated power grid at the present – when this system is designed, careful attention needs to be paid to maintenance and how it will be maintained.

solar space

Wait, wait, wait – am I really talking about this like it’s going to happen?  This seems pretty Michael Crichton There’s a power company called PG&E in California (remember when the Enron guys spent all of their retirement?) that has signed a deal with a company called Solaren for 200 megwatts of solar space-based power by 2016.  Someone thinks that this is going to happen – otherwise they wouldn’t be shelling out money to research it.  Right?

PowerSat, a company working on this technology, says that the technology will be usable within a decade – the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and Osaka University are working on the receiver device presently.  The device is made from a combination of metal powders and plates that multiply the energy of the laser being shot at it by a factor of 4.  As the program progresses, one would hope that the factor could be increased.

On one hand, wow.  That’s some inventive thinking!  On the other, this would be some pretty great technology if it gets perfected.  PowerSat posted a video about the technology and their approach:

Thanks to The Daily Galaxy, CleanTechnica, and Yale 360!

Sputnik, Dude. Except Not In Space, In Your Living Room.

Well, at least in the prototype/concept phase right now – Shane Crozier‘s Sputnik lamp design is an LED fixture-slash-art piece-slash storage container.  It looks like it stands about six feet tall.  Where the heck am I going to put that thing?  According to Shane’s page on the Sputnik fixture, the four LED antennae do fold in a bit, so you could stick it in a corner if you’re like us, in a one-bedroom apartment.  Check out some pictures:




Thanks, Crunchgear!

A Glimpse of Iridium


Have you ever heard of iridium flares?  Light reflecting from the main mission antenna on the Iridium communications satellite (since it’s a big shiny aluminum plate-type piece) makes brilliant flares in the sky, mostly at night.  A great page at the Visual Satellite Observer says that the flares are about thirty times brighter than the reflection from Venus.

Now I’ll be looking for these things – and now I want to go camping in the mountains to get a very bright sky to see one.


Thanks, BoingBoing and Visual Satellite Observer!

Mark Wynn-Edwards on the i-Pix BB4 and Satellite


I have reported a few stories on the i-Pix BB4 and BB7 LED fixtures that have been making the news as of the last four months or so, and in my research and planning posts I wanted to get a lighting designer/director’s perspective on these fixtures.  A lighting designer/director/programmer, Mark Wynn-Edwards was kind enough to write about these for the site – Mark’s got a ton of work under his belt, and has used the BB4 and the i-Pix Satellite in his work.  Mark’s been quoted in LEDs Magazine and LSI Online, and others.

From an email from Mark:

I have used the Ipix rage of fixtures in many of my designs for TV and touring band work over the past few years  even using them as the only fixtures toured and used on stage 100 % LED rig.

Ipix Satellite

I love the durability of the fixture and the fact you can daisy chain the power so you can have quite a number running off one 16A supply – this on quite a few occasions has been a saving grace.  The lights have quite a punch, on numerous occasions I have used them with bands as the only source of lighting or to add a sudden extra dynamic to a stage .

To control the beam they have caps that will fit over the front with various levels of frost – I tend to go with a light frost so there is only a slight amount of control on the beam but you still get a bit of colour mixing in the air .

The Satellite is quite a small fixture so as a result you can hide them in the truss or my favorite use for them is hide them in and around the back line makes a great effect and great dynamic to use for subtle moments and with the right timing and an extra edge on the more  upbeat  moments .

BB Wash  (BB4)

I was lucky enough to use the first version of the BB wash and use the beta Version on the Klaxons May Tour.  The fixture looks almost like a molefay – its has four battens with three LED lamps in each batten.  Lets just say its not a small fixture, not what you would expect for an LED.

The first time I fired the beast up I was silly enough to be quite close to it and have it pointing straight at me ….it was painful …even bright through my eye lids.  It is a great fixture for lighting up set or as a rock LD I use it as an alternative form of back light and again a good device for hiding around the stage.

Every date of the tour the beta version was used on I would get comments from the local techs who were stunned by the fixture , I was also very impressed with the fixture couldn’t believe how bright the fixture was.

Ipix then developed the BB4 each batten of the fixture is removable this was a great idea as you can hide the base then have each batten  spread around the truss  or where ever.

The most recent edition to the Ipix range is the BB7 is a cluster of seven LED super bright lamps in a hexagon shaped body.  Yet another great fixture for Ipix and a great look and very different.

I love the Ipix range and  love working with the people at Ipix – they pay a lot of attention to what the LD wants and needs and most importantly provide a fantastic support system.

Thanks for commenting on these, Mark!  Check out Mark Wynn-Edwards’ portfolio and leave him a comment!