Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Things to do with Wolfram|Alpha when you're bored: Space probes and satellites

I'm actually posting these Wolfram|Alpha fun tips in a row. This is the third one in the series. If you are like me, you'll find it fun. You can actually use the computational knowledge engine to find info on satellites orbiting our little planet, and also space probes that humans have sent out with expectations of finding alien life, or whatever.

So, this is simple. You just go to Wolfram|Alpha and type in the name of a satellite. In my example, I key in 'ISS'. It intelligently interprets it as the International Space Station.

You can enlarge the photo above to enlarge it. It not only shows the countries who built it, but it also shows the current position. It even showed me a map, with the ISS plotted on it, and it even indicated the orbit it follows.

Okay, now for the space probes. I entered 'Voyager 1' in the search bar. This was even more amazing. It showed some really awesome stats. It showed the distance of Voyager 1 from the Sun, from Earth and it showed the heliocentric velocity. Now for the fun part. The last thing in the results was the current sky position from my own location. Voyager 1 is not visible from my location, but if you happen to know a recently launched probe, and you happen to have an observatory (or a powerful telescope) at your disposal, Wolfram|Alpha can be useful for your sightseeing.

Visit Wolfram|Alpha and let me know some fun tips and tricks in the comments. You can also check out fun Wolfram|Alpha stuff in my archives and learn how to look up IP addresses and track websites, mix up colours, and compare website traffic. And there's always more, and coming...