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In just a few hours the ISS (International Space Station) will be sweeping overhead where I am, and I have clear skies tonight. For others inclined to do naked-eye viewing of manned orbital craft (or unmanned, or perhaps planets are your chosen targets to watch), there are a few resources you might find useful. First off, there is NASA’s Human Space Flight App, updated with the latest orbital tracking data, not only for the ISS, but also the Shuttle, the Hubble Space Telescope, and a number of others. You can reverse that as well, using their Realtime ISS Photos page to see an image of what is below the ISS right this moment. Note that the ISS location is in realtime, but the pictures are from an archive, possibly even the EarthKam; and the European version is the EuroKam variant. In Europe or the rest of the world you might want to use the ESA ISS Seeker applet. Which interestingly enough is built on the next tool I wanted to mention…

Heavens Above isn’t just for multinationals or government agencies; you can create your own account there, and customize your interface for your own interests. It is an extremely powerful database and toolset, so much so that even NASA links to them, and this site makes the wonders of the skies available for everyone to know and observe. They did a killer job on the setup parameters and the graphic output, making it both very easy to select your location and objects of interest, and even easier to understand the results it gives you.

There are a number of other online satellite/planet tracker software packages I use on a regular basis, the next most frequently visited being Night Skies, the Sky and Telescope interactive extension of their This Weeks Sky At A Glance page.

We are 3 weeks away from Comic-Con 2009, the big one in San Diego, and it is already sold out. Which means I will be watching it on TV and watching and listening to the many podcasts and vlogs. As always, they will be doing the Eisner Awards as well as a number of other awards presentations. Hollywood will be out in force promoting all the new genre related movies, and they will be running multiple film festivals. It runs the 22nd through 26th of July, with a preview night on the 22nd. Also on the 22nd will be the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century, and you can watch it live online. Another presentation of the IYA2009 ongoing event, this contribution is being hosted by the Chinese scientific community.

Roboworld is now open at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. Billed as the largest robotics exhibition in the United States, it includes robots you can play air hockey and basketball with, and a number who demonstrate the basics of robotic senses. There are also some famous Film Bots, such as C-3PO from Star Wars and Maria from Metropolis, as well as Gort, Robby, and Dewey. The Post-Gazette has a nice little video introduction to the exhibit, if you don’t mind sitting through a short commercial first. And then there is Robot Truth

The opening version of Wolfram/Alpha is now online and ready for testing. As I mentioned back in March, while the name sounds like the IT department of the evil Lawyers company in Angel, Wolfram Alpha is a computer program that actually answers the question you ask. Or at least that is the goal, and they are off to a good start. For those who think this sounds like Deep Thought from Hitchhikers, my favorite answer so far: if you ask it what is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything it gives the correct answer. Thanks to Sci Fi Scanner for thinking to ask it that question.

Alasdair Wilkins at io9 has a very nice article about Asimov’s Robots, focusing on how obeying the Three Laws can still end up with killer robots running around loose. David Brin also put together an interesting post yesterday covering a number of different topics, including the SIGMA group, which had another gathering this past week in D.C.. Wish I had known about the book signing the authors did at Reiter’s Bookstore as part of that event ahead of time, it would have been fun to attend.