Archive for the Space Category

2. London Gherkin/Spirit of London

Posted in 12 Days of Johnny Mackintosh, Space, star blaze with tags , , , , on December 27, 2009 by keithmansfield

“When on Earth, Johnny’s ship took the place of the real Gherkin and stood at the heart of London’s financial district”, p. 3

Welcome to the second day of Johnny Mackintosh. I took this shot with a disposable camera flying into London City Airport. Even though the photo doesn’t do it justice, I’ve cropped it to include the Bishopsgate Tower (a new skyscraper at the very top of the picture) which, from many vantage points on the ground, looks curiously two-dimensional.

When I was writing Johnny Mackintosh: Star Blaze, I’d often work long into the night, say until three or four in the morning. Bishopsgate Tower was being built at the time and glancing up from my notebook I’d see the lights from welder’s torches sparkling in different places through the dark.

Of course the best thing about the photo is the great view of the Spirit of London (I made sure I snapped this when Johnny and Clara were here on Earth, so the original London Gherkin has been folded away into hyperspace and what you’re seeing is Johnny’s actual spaceship). She is magnificent and doesn’t look out of place anywhere in the galaxy.

Now we’re two days after Christmas I’d suggest getting to work on those thank you letters so you’ve plenty of time for reading once Star Blaze comes out. Tomorrow, we’ve back in space but very, very nearby.

1. Saturn

Posted in 12 Days of Johnny Mackintosh, Space, star blaze with tags , , , on December 26, 2009 by keithmansfield

“he was staring at the huge planet Saturn … for Johnny was not standing in any room on Earth. He was on the bridge of his very own spaceship”, pp. 1–2

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Happy Christmas to fans of Johnny Mackintosh everywhere! I hope you had a great time.

For the next twelve days, leading up to publication, I’m going to be posting images that give what I hope is a tantalizing taste of Johnny Mackintosh: Star Blaze, showing places Johnny visits, but not giving the story away. Today’s first image shows the planet Saturn.

If I had a spaceship, the first place I would visit would be Saturn. End of. Ever since I was young it’s the sight I’ve most dreamed of seeing close at hand with the naked eye. Perhaps, in a couple of hundred years’ time, there’ll be a thriving tourist industry and plenty of space hotels in orbit.

All four of the gas giant planets in the solar system turn out to have ring systems but the others pale when compared with the mighty Saturn, whose rings can sometimes be seen through small telescopes from Earth. We don’t know for certain how and why they formed and how long they’ll last. A few years ago opinion among astronomers was that they were a temporary phenomenon. Nowadays, it’s thought more likely the rings are stable and could even last as long as Saturn or the rest of the solar system.

As Johnny Mackintosh: Star Blaze begins, the Spirit of London is close to Saturn. This picture was taken by the Cassini spacecraft, and this particular shot is of an equinox, where the planet is exactly half in light and half in shadow. We’re used to the myriad satellites orbiting Earth, for instance giving us TV, mobile phones and weather forecasting, but it’s amazing to think that nowadays we have satellites in orbit around other bodies. There are three around Mars and it’s a tremendous achievement for Cassini to have been positioned around Saturn as it has.

I’m very excited about tomorrow’s picture as it’s one I took myself…

The Second Johnny Mackintosh book

Posted in Book news, Space with tags , , , , on August 16, 2009 by keithmansfield

If you’ve come to this site because you’re desperate to discover more about the sequel to Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London (and who could blame you), you’re in the right place. Finally, the full manuscript for Johnny Mackintosh: Star Blaze is with Quercus Books and in production, due to publish early in 2010.

Supernova image SN2006gyThe Star Blaze of the title is what we might normally call a supernova, the moment a star explodes at the end of its life. At that time, the light from a single sun will outshine the rest of its galaxy.

Of course it would be wrong to tell you what happens, but I have to say I’m very excited about the new book. I can say the action begins around five months after the end of Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London and that you should check back soon as I’ll be posting a little taster…

[Image: artist’s impression of Supernova SN2007gy, courtesy NASA/CXC/M.Weiss; X-ray: NASA/CXC/UC Berkeley/N.Smith et al.; IR: Lick/UC Berkeley/J.Bloom & C.Hansen]

Real Life in Space

Posted in Science, Space with tags , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2008 by keithmansfield

“The others followed suit . . . sliding down into what looked like a chaotic junkyard, about the size of a school gym. Johnny wondered if he was ever going to see the type of gleaming hi-tech spaceship he’d always imagined.”

JM&tSoL, p.81

When we watch science fiction films or TV shows, spaceships are normally spotlessly clean and tidy. The Discovery One of Kubrick/Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey would be the perfect pristine example if it weren’t for the mess going on inside computer HAL’s brain. From James Tiberius Kirk’s starship Enterprise through to Roj Blake’s Liberator, once we leave the shackles of Earth it seems nothing is ever the slightest bit out of place (even in zero G).

In real life things are seldom like that. I hate to disappoint any parents reading this, but I have to tell you that Johnny’s quarters on the Spirit of London are just as untidy as his bedroom back in Halader House.

At the UK’s National Space Centre in Leicester, there’s a mockup of one module of the International Space Station:

It’s informative to see how the same module looks in Earth orbit:

Thanks to Joey deVilla’s Global Nerdy blog for pointing out the pictures.
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Whispers from Space

Posted in Science, Space with tags , , , , , on June 29, 2008 by keithmansfield

“All his life Johnny had loved the stars. On some nights when he lay gazing up at them it almost felt as if they were calling out to him, whispering his name across the vastness of space.”

JM&tSoL, p.10

The beginning of Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London sees Johnny, with a little help from Kovac and Bentley, discovering a signal from space.

Johnny\'s Seti screensaverScientists involved with SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, use radio telescopes to look for signals from aliens. Just like Johnny, you can help them by using the Seti@home screensaver to analyse genuine signals from radio telescopes and report back with your findings.

Or, if you want a bit of fun, you can have a go on the Alien Bandstand game at the Sonoma Space Mysteries site. A DJ thinks he’s downloaded some alien rock music and is going to make a fortune. It’s up to you to discover if the signal’s genuine. Here are some screenshots from when Johnny had a go:

The view out of the window of Space Mysteries HQMessage for Space Sleuths

Alien Bandstand\'s aurora signalJohnny gets another question right

Images courtesy of NASA/Sonoma State University

There are plenty more space games to play if you visit the mysteries site, run by California’s Sonoma State University.
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