Sunday, January 28, 2018

ASKING FOR EYEBALLS – WIND TURBINES IN SHETLAND

The Guardian report was astonishing, surprising; the fake star brought the skies down to earth, demystified the wonder:

'Space graffiti': astronomers angry over launch of fake star into sky
Giant disco ball dubbed ‘Humanity Star’, launched by startup Rocket Lab, will interfere with scientific study of the universe, experts say




Fri 26 Jan 2018 17.03 AEDTLast modified on Sat 27 Jan 2018 09.01 AEDT
Astronomers across the world have criticised a privately owned, New Zealand-based space company after it secretively put a satellite likened to a giant disco ball into orbit.
Last week the space exploration startup Rocket Lab launched a rocket from a remote sheep and cattle farm on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.
The moment prompted jubilation and pride across New Zealand, with Rocket Lab’s founder and chief executive Peter Beck labelling it an “almost unprecedented” step in commercial space exploration.
But it has since emerged that as well as conventional satellites, the rocket was also carrying the “Humanity Star”, a three-foot-wide geodesic sphere made from carbon fibre and fitted with 65 highly reflective panels.
The sphere, the company has claimed, will reflect the sun’s rays back to Earth creating a flashing light visible from anywhere on the globe. It is expected to become the brightest object in the night sky for nine months until it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere.
Rocket Lab said the Humanity Star was supposed to be a “reminder to all on Earth about our fragile place in the universe”, and the company’s chief executive and founder, Peter Beck, said the sphere would “create a shared experience for everyone on the planet”.
But many astrophysicists disagree. Richard Easther from the University of Auckland told the Guardian that Rocket Lab may have unintentionally hit on a particularly sore point for his profession.
Light pollution is already a serious concern for scientists whose focus is on the stars, and the introduction of a glinting disco ball in space has not been widely welcomed.
“This one instance won’t be a big deal but the idea of it becoming commonplace, especially at larger scales, would bring astronomers out into the street,” Easther said.
“I can understand the exuberance for this sort of thing but I also get the sense that they did not realise that people could see a downside to it.”
Others were less diplomatic.
“Wow. Intentionally bright long-term space graffiti. Thanks a lot @RocketLab,” California Institute of Technology astronomer Mike Brown wrote on Twitter.
Or, as the director of astrobiology at Columbia University Caleb Scharf wrote in Scientifc American, the star represented “another invasion of my personal universe, another flashing item asking for eyeballs”.
“Most of us would not think it cute if I stuck a big flashing strobe-light on a polar bear, or emblazoned my company slogan across the perilous upper reaches of Everest,” Scharf wrote.
“Jamming a brilliantly glinting sphere into the heavens feels similarly abusive. It’s definitely a reminder of our fragile place in the universe, because it’s infesting the very thing that we urgently need to cherish.”


That a commercial company might secretly launch a bright, artificial star into space is a serious cause for concern. This article on 'space graffiti' is intriguing, enlightening, not only because of its subject, but also because its critique has direct parallels with Shetland and wind turbines - the commercial development of the naked landscape, the skies and the hills.




Once in Aberdeen many years ago, Shetland was described to us, somewhat dismissively, disparagingly, as 'moon country' – space territory: harsh,empty, and inhospitable. The latent proposition was: "Why would you want to go there?" In the Guardian report, an astrophysicist comments on the bright, artificial star that has been introduced into the firmament by a New Zealander, worrying about the change it makes to the skies and his research - his perception and understanding. Similarly, one has to be concerned about the introduction of wind turbines into the Shetland 'moonscape' - its firmament.




For the exercise, to embrace the 'astro'-analogy, one is challenged to envisage Shetland as the moon, and to consider the impact that wind turbines, the latest commercial 'stars,' have on the environment. The comments of the astrobiologist on the new fake star are the same as those that can be made about the Shetland wind turbines, their place and experience:



. . . the star (wind turbine) represented “another invasion of my personal universe, another flashing item (wind turbine) asking for eyeballs.”
“Most of us would not think it cute if I stuck a big flashing strobe-light (wind turbine) on a polar bear, or emblazoned my company slogan (wind turbine) across the perilous upper reaches of Everest,” Scharf wrote.
“Jamming a brilliantly glinting sphere (wind turbine) into the heavens (Shetland) feels similarly abusive. It’s definitely a reminder of our fragile place in the universe, because it’s infesting the very thing that we urgently need to cherish.”



Yes, "jamming" wind turbines into the Shetland landscape "feels similarly abusive. It’s definitely a reminder of our fragile place in the universe, because (they are) infesting the very thing that we urgently need to cherish.”



The serious concern is the "asking for eyeballs," the demanding imposition of the spiky presence on location and landscape; history and time, their contemplation: the distraction from simple contentment and subtle enrichment, enchantment. Indeed, as the astrobiologist so clearly identified, the issues are to: 'urgently' . . . 'cherish;' be this the heavens or the Shetland landscape - more simply, the universe, and life itself.





Below, Shetland at peace, not "asking for eyeballs" - in all of its glory.




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