Don’t worry Nasa… Basingstoke Astronomical Society is coming to help protect Earth

Not all heroes wear capes… the Basingtoke Astronomical Society and members of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

A group of British amateur stargazers has launched an unlikely bid to follow in Nasa’s footsteps and devise new ways to protect our lovely blue planet from threats in space.

Basingstoke Astronomical Society has teamed up with the Ministry of Defence to explore relatively cheap ways to ‘keep space safe’.

The mission was launched when the Hampshire telescope peepers heard the MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory wanted to track satellites and other objects in space using commercially available equipment.

Basingstoke’s finest part-time cosmos watchers were then roped in to set up a large network of commercially available telescopes, tripod-mounted DSLR cameras and low-light cameras in order to snap pictures of spacecraft overhead.

This experiment proved successful and the MoD has then able to process the data and track the spacecraft more accurately.

There are currently 22,000 artificial satellites in orbit, making it important to follow their movements to stop avoid high-speed collisions.

A view of one Basingstoke stargazer in action

Military chiefs will also have an interest in keeping an eye on surveillance or communication satellites launched by other nations.

Grant Privett, of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, said: ‘We found there are no obvious impediments to using commercially available kit to provide small component of a more capable and diverse system for monitoring space, where satellites of importance to UK communications, economy, and defence operate.’

Basingstoke is the biggest town in Hampshire and expanded rapidly to accommodate London overspill during the 20th century.

It is not known as a hub of the space industry but is famous for a number of big cat sightings.

Despite all the optical equipment that seems to be kept in the town, there has little conclusive proof about whether the Beast of Basingstoke is a lion, puma, tiger or urban myth.


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