NASA has thanked A-level student Miles Soloman for spotting an error in International Space Station data which revealed that radiation sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) have been recording false data.
Miles was taking part in the TimPix project which gets schools access to radiation data collected from the Timepix detectors on the ISS (the name is a nod to astronaut Tim Peake. Tim was on board the ISS when the data was collected).
The TimPix project allows students to learn about how radiation data can help researchers understand the effects of our Sun as well as stars beyond our solar system.
If you enjoyed this article subscribe to our mailing list to receive weekly updates!
The team behind the project hope that the fresh perspective of students will allow for new ways of looking at data.
Miles discovered the error by looking beyond the high-level readings of radiation at the top of the spreadsheets that NASA released and noticed a large number of “-1” entries towards the end.
Rather than recording an error, or a blank reading, if no result was logged the sensor was marking the result as “-1”.
NASA had been aware that their sensor could generate this error, but incorrectly believed it was only happening a few times a year, Miles had been able to spot it happening several times day.
What makes The International Space Station so special for collecting data?
The ISS (International Space Station) is designed to allow scientists a unique vantage point for observing the Earth’s ecosystems with hands-on and automated equipment.
The station crew can observe and collect camera images of events as they unfold and may also provide input to ground personnel programming the station’s automated Earth-sensing systems.
This flexibility gives NASA an advantage over sensors on unmanned spacecraft, especially when unexpected natural events such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.