Show Hide image

The best Instagram accounts to follow if you love space

As new space findings hit the news on an almost daily basis, the app offers an alternative window onto the universe.

If there’s anything that can break us away from the humdrum monotony of modern life, it’s space. It renders us awe-struck and captures our imagination with its vastness and surreal imagery, and as astronomy-related research expands, cosmic mysteries continue to unfold.

Whether it’s the occurrence of rare celestial events, the discovery of exoplanets that could potentially harbour life, or the confirmation of gravitational waves that ripple through the space-time continuum, it seems that there are new findings propelled onto our newsfeeds daily.  

Yet one of the best ways of keeping up to date with the latest research and projects at the frontier of space is on Instagram, the social media platform. Here are some of the accounts you should be following to get the greatest insight into space:

1. SpaceX (@spacex)

The aerospace company SpaceX designs spacecrafts and reusable rockets in the hope that their technology can one day make human life multi-planetary. Spearheaded be CEO Elon Musk, the company has the lofty ambition of one day colonising Mars. Below is a spectacular image of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket in its first-stage entry:


Photographer unexpectedly captures Falcon 9 second stage burn and first stage entry @slowcountrylife

A photo posted by SpaceX (@spacex) on


2. International Space Station (@iss)

The International Space Station, a habitable satellite whirling around the Earth approximately 16 times per day in low orbit, has an Instagram feed displaying the equipment on board as well as stunning pictures of the Earth from a distance. Here’s a picture from the station 250 miles above earth depicting the Earth as an azure blue marble:


The blue of the #bahamas can't be mistaken, even from 250 miles above. #YearInSpace #nasa #space #spacestation : @stationcdrkelly

A photo posted by International Space Station (@iss) on


3. Tim Peake (@astro_timpeake)

Currently aboard the International Space Station is Tim Peake, a British astronaut. As he has carried out his work on Expedition 46/47 on the station, he has shared a range of photos of Earth that he has shot with his Nikon D4 from the vantage point of space, from reefs off the coast of Mozambique to the glint of sun highlighting Vancouver Island. Here we have a clear image of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”:


3/3: The Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ clear to see amongst the volcanoes of Kamchatka, Russia

A photo posted by Tim Peake (@astro_timpeake) on


4. Scott Kelly (@stationcdrkelly)

Scott Kelly is an engineer and a retired American astronaut who recently spent a year commanding the International Space Station, travelling 143,846,525 miles around our globe in the process. A quick scroll through his profile will demonstrate just how profound his experience must have been at the shores of space, and includes a host of images of the aurora borealis:


#GoodMorning #aurora and the Pacific Northwest! #YearInSpace #northernlights #beautiful #morning #space #spacestation #iss

A photo posted by Scott Kelly (@stationcdrkelly) on


5. Nasa Goddard (@nasagoddard)

Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre was the company’s very first flight centre. It’s the largest of its kind, and the official Instagram account for the centre serves as a highlight reel for everything NASA is working on. There are behind-the-scenes looks at the James Webb Space Telescope under construction, computer-simulated images of supermassive black holes, and clear views of distant galaxies captured by the Hubble Space Telescope:


Observations by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have taken advantage of gravitational lensing to reveal the largest sample of the faintest and earliest known galaxies in the universe. Some of these galaxies formed just 600 million years after the big bang and are fainter than any other galaxy yet uncovered by Hubble. The team has determined for the first time with some confidence that these small galaxies were vital to creating the universe that we see today. An international team of astronomers, led by Hakim Atek of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, has discovered over 250 tiny galaxies that existed only 600-900 million years after the big bang— one of the largest samples of dwarf galaxies yet to be discovered at these epochs. The light from these galaxies took over 12 billion years to reach the telescope, allowing the astronomers to look back in time when the universe was still very young. Although impressive, the number of galaxies found at this early epoch is not the team’s only remarkable breakthrough, as Johan Richard from the Observatoire de Lyon, France, points out. “The faintest galaxies detected in these Hubble observations are fainter than any other yet uncovered in the deepest Hubble observations.” By looking at the light coming from the galaxies the team discovered that the accumulated light emitted by these galaxies could have played a major role in one of the most mysterious periods of the universe’s early history — the epoch of reionization. Reionization started when the thick fog of hydrogen gas that cloaked the early universe began to clear. Ultraviolet light was now able to travel over larger distances without being blocked and thus the universe became transparent to ultraviolet light. Credit: NASA/ESA #nasagoddard #Hubble #HST #space #galaxy

A photo posted by NASA Goddard (@nasagoddard) on


6. Roscosmos (@roscosmosofficial)

Roscosmos is the Russian Federal Space Agency at the heart of all space endeavours in Russia. The agency is involved in the maintenance and progression of the International Space Station, and is working on its own research projects such as a planned robotic mission to one of Mars’s moons.  Here’s the launch of a rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome which is under construction:


7. Nasa (@nasa)

Over the years, Nasa has firmly committed to pushing the boundaries of space exploration, and, as its 12.3m Instagram acolytes would agree, it has been successful. As part of the Frontier Fields campaign investigating galaxy clusters, a recent deep field image from the Hubble revealed bounds of galaxies in the constellation of Leo:


Nearly as deep as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, which contains approximately 10,000 galaxies, this incredible image from the Hubble Space Telescope reveals thousands of colorful galaxies in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). This vibrant view of the early universe was captured as part of the Frontier Fields campaign, which aims to investigate galaxy clusters in more detail than ever before, and to explore some of the most distant galaxies in the universe. Galaxy clusters are massive. They can have a tremendous impact on their surroundings, with their immense gravity warping and amplifying the light from more distant objects. This phenomenon, known as gravitational lensing, can help astronomers to see galaxies that would otherwise be too faint, aiding our hunt for residents of the primordial universe. Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt #nasa #hubble #astronomy #science #space #galaxy #galaxies

A photo posted by NASA (@nasa) on

Show Hide image

“I got out and ran”: with one attack a week in London, is using Uber safe for women?

Users entrust untrained strangers to drive us around simply because they operate via a sleek, shiny app.

The most unsettling experience of my life cost me £34.75. At 2:50am on a Sunday morning in February, I got into an Uber – a taxi ordered via the ride-hailing app of the same name. The app informed me I would be home in 26 minutes, but I wasn’t. When I finally opened the door to my flat over an hour later, I burst into sobs.

In an effort to extort more money from our journey, my driver took me all across London – and off the predetermined route Uber had mapped out. On the app, you can watch your journey as it progresses, a little black car moving steadily along a planned blue line. When I realised we had gone a different way, and looked out the window to see we were driving through a deserted industrial estate at 3am, I started to panic. In the end, a £10 journey cost nearly four times as much – but I was relieved. I spent the ride fearing my driver wanted to take advantage of me in a different way.

This wasn’t the first time that it struck me how strange it is that Uber users entrust untrained strangers to drive us around simply because they operate via a sleek, shiny app.

Yet that journey was the first time I fully felt the weight of what this means. The morning after, I Googled to see if my fears were unfounded. They weren’t. From February 2016 to February 2017, there were 48 alleged sex attacks by Uber drivers reported to the police in London. That works out at nearly one attack by an Uber driver in London a week.

Not all of these attacks took place within Uber cars, and Scotland Yard added a caveat to the data that some of the accused may have been incorrectly identified as working for Uber, while not all of these complaints resulted in the drivers being charged.

Nonetheless, it is an alarming statistic. Like black cab drivers, Uber drivers must obtain a licence from their local authority and go through a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, which flags previous convictions. Yet, in 2016, five UK Uber drivers were convicted of sexually assaulting their passengers. In the same year, no licensed black cab drivers were charged with journey-related sexual offences. In July 2017, a London-based Uber driver who waited outside bars to pick up and rape drunk women was jailed for 12 years.

When I get in touch with other women to ask if they have felt unsafe in an Uber, it feels as though everyone has a story. “I’ve never had conversations with people where it immediately became sexual so quickly,” says 22-year-old Akeno Katsuda, whose Uber driver started asking her “invasive” questions about her sex life as he drove her home from a night out. “The fact that he knew where I lived was a little scary.”

Katsuda has other bad experiences – one driver asked her where she was from and said, “It would be nice to marry a Japanese woman because they are sexually subservient”. She isn’t alone. Ellie Dickinson, also 22, tells me about an incident where an Uber driver made lewd comments towards her, even though her brother was also in the car. Aliss Wagner, 23, had a driver who – like mine – took her around London instead of taking the pre-planned shorter route.

“He deliberately put his inside mirror down so that he could see me in it, and kept staring at me through it even while driving,” she says. When the driver stopped at a red light and Wagner realised she wasn’t on the right route, she banged on the car window to attract the attention of a nearby couple. “They looked at me, but then the driver drove away.”

In the end, Wagner was safe – if a little late. As the driver finally neared her destination, Wagner rolled down the window and opened the car door from the outside. “I got out and ran,” she says.

In September 2017, Transport for London (TfL) decided not to renew Uber’s licence to operate in London, accusing the company of “a lack of corporate responsibility” when it came to public safety. A month before this, a Metropolitan police inspector warned TfL that Uber was not reporting serious crimes, a failure that allowed an accused sex attacker to go on to assault a second woman. Though the company is attempting to appeal, traditional taxi drivers are overjoyed about
TfL’s decision.

Other cabs aren’t necessarily safe, though. Uber gets most of the scrutiny because it’s a young tech company that made headlines in 2016, when it emerged its drivers had been accused of 32 assaults in the previous year.  Despite the coverage, however, the data revealed that during the same year there were 122 allegations against other taxi drivers in London, including black cab drivers, legal and illegal minicabs, and chauffeur-driven cars. Many women feel unsafe in traditional taxis and some even think Uber is safer, as the app allows friends and family to track journeys. As of February 2018, Uber now also reports crimes directly to the police.

Yet perhaps we expect more of Uber precisely because it is new. The company used technology to make taxis cheaper for everyone – why can’t it make them safer too? It could be mandatory for every Uber driver to install a tamper-proof CCTV camera in their car, for instance, or the panic button in the Indian version of the Uber app could be made available worldwide.

The other solution – that women stop taking Ubers alone, or at all – isn’t always feasible and would be a significant blow to female independence. Each of the women I spoke to still uses Uber, despite their experiences.

“I think it’s just way convenient so I continue to do it,” Akeno Katsuda told me. I have also taken Ubers alone after my unsettling experience. It is not a coincidence that the women I spoke to were aged 22 and 23. When money is tight, and walking home or taking the night bus is the most dangerous option of all, the frying pan can be the only alternative to the fire. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 08 March 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The new cold war