Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Space Worms

Remember the end of Independence Day, when Will Smith defeats the aliens by uploading a virus into their computers? I always thought it was a quaint assumption on the screenwriter's part that aliens would be using Windows 95 as their operating system.

Until I read today over at that the International Space Station has a actual computer worm (the W32.Gammima.AG worm) infecting it's computer system. This is a worm originally designed to steal information from on-line gamers. And somehow it got on the space station's computer!

No, I'm not making any of this up.

And it gets weirder. They used Norton AntiVirus to get rid of it! Really. Here's the actual NASA press release. Read the second sentence. Read further and you'll be relieved to know they are now installing Norton on all their laptops. In space!

Shouldn't they have thought of that before they took off?

Doesn't exactly give you a lot of faith in NASA, does it (to be fair, there are alotta space agencies involved)? My guess is someone was playing Defender up their on their laptop, when they were supposed to be working.

Since we're on the subjects of software and space, I found a nifty little open source application called Stellarium that gives you a realistic, 3-D view of the night sky, from any time and any place. And while it's fun to look up, say, what the sky looked like the time and place you were born, the real use of this is to set it to your own city, in real time. So the next time you're outside, taking out the garbage, and see what you think is a planet and wanna figure out which one, your can fire up Stellarium when you get back in and find out. You can also zoom in to any part of the sky, search for objects, turn on constellation art, star labels, all sorts of cool stuff. If you have a telescope, you can approximate the field of view of your scope while looking for some particularly hard to find galaxy. Planetariums even use it for their projections.

I've been using Starry Night for years, and have found it a good program. But Stellarium is not only better, but free! And the fact that it's open source means there is no hidden agenda, or profit motive at work. The only agenda is to create the best piece of astronomy software possible.

Again, it's free, so download it and check it out!

Below is a screen shot of tonight's sky rendered by Stellarium, pointed toward my favorite part of the sky this time of year: Sagittarius, Scorpio, and the Galactic Center! Constellations and labels are turned on. Click to enlarge.


Gordo said...

Oh, my aching sides! I work with scientists and they really are that dumb.

There's a portable version of Stellarium that will run from a USB key without having to be installed, too. It's amazing what you can get for free, isn't it?

Ian O'Neill said...

Hi there! Thanks for linking to Astroengine! Really happy you enjoyed my space worm article :-)

You have a great site here, will be sure to have a look around.

Best wishes, Ian

Irrelephant said...

Wait, but what does it cost?

Nancy Dancehall said...

"I always thought it was a quaint assumption on the screenwriter's part that aliens would be using Windows 95 as their operating system."

LMAO! Let's hope they're using Vista now. that should short-circuit any invasion...

Clowncar said...

Gordo, that is very cool about the USB Stellarium. Where do you work? You mentioned something way back when about using their telescope, and just now about scientists being dense. I'm curious...

Ian! Mr. Astroengine himself. I hope I didn't misrepresent the story too much. I very much enjoy your blog and read it almost daily. Thanks for visiting!

Irr, it's free! Didn't I mention that?

Nancy. So true. Your invasion of earth has encountered unexpected difficulties and must close.