Today at approximately 08:45am GMT
, the Rosetta spacecraft
entered orbit of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko after a 10 year journey. Now in orbit 100km above the surface, Rosetta is already sending back amazing images
of a rocky, rough rubber duck
shaped comet. [more inside]
Recent times the world almost ended
. (deslide version here
I am a staunch believer in leading with the bad news, so let me get straight to the point. Earth, our anchor and our solitary haven in a hostile universe, is in a precarious situation. The solar system around us is rife with instability. [more inside]
flew to within 9 million miles of the Earth yesterday.
In 2029 it will come around again and get within 20,000 miles (closer than geosynchronous satellites). Then in 2036 it will approach again. At one time it was thought that it had a 3.5% chance flying through a specific keyhole of space in 2029, which would indicate that it would hit the Earth in 2036. But now the odds are calculated to be infinitesimal
Let's hope the astronomer assumptions are correct about that pesky Yarkovsky Effect
. [more inside]
For the first time ever, a meteor has grazed in and out of Earth's atmosphere, slowing enough to become a temporary satellite that lasted a full orbit.
In other astronomical news, a comet was discovered by a couple of Russian
astronomers that appears to have all of the ingredients to be one of
the greatest comets in our lifetimes, and maybe one of the greatest in
human civilization's history.
New comet might blaze brighter than the full Moon
This will be the second
great comet of 2013.
A comet has been discovered and we may get to see it.
If it doesn't boil away first, we'll be able to see it November 29th, 2013, give or take a day.
Lots of back-slapping on the comet email list
Dr. David Morrison
is the senior scientist at NASA's Astrobiology Institute
in the Ames Research Center in California. For the past eight years he's also run the Ask an Astrobiologist
feature on the institute's website. "Started by a civic-minded intern, the column has become the go-to place for concerned citizens to write to NASA and ask if, as they'd heard on the internet, the world will truly end on December 21, 2012. Before he took the helm on Ask an Astrobiologist, Dr. Morrison hadn't heard anything about such theories. Now he can't escape them." Meet NASA's unofficial answerer of apocalypse emails
-- at least until December 23rd. [more inside]
... it’s no exaggeration to say that LIFEFORCE tosses everything in but the kitchen in an attempt to entertain you. Actually, scratch that, it tosses everything including the kitchen sink. By the time the movie is complete, you may have to watch it again just to verify that you actually saw what you just saw. The movie is a mess of enormous proportions which I absolutely loved.* (previously) [more inside]
In 2004, the Stardust
mission passed through the tail of comet 81P/Wild (aka Wild 2)
; in 2006, that captured comet dust was returned to Earth. Now, researchers have found glycine
, one of the amino acids in proteins, in that cometary material
. [more inside]
The Story of a Comet Hunter
(see also his web page
which contains a link to the story of his discover of Comet Seki-Lines in 1962).
Visual comet hunting
has a long and intriguing history
. Today visual hunters are adapting
their ways to make visual discoveries in an age of automated
searches. The amateur can still win
Now, ANYONE can discover a comet(?)
Or perhaps 1000
. A Guide for SOHO Comet Hunters
. More SOHO and Sungrazing Comet Links
) has been discovered in support
(BBC) of the North American Comet Catastrophe of 10,900 BC
(previously). "We think that there was probably an impact which exploded in the air that sent [meteorite] particles flying into the animals.. the fragments unlikely originated on Earth." The discovery was made by Allen West
using a magnet at an Arizona motel during a sale of Mammoth tusks
. "It was just a tiny magnet on a string, but very strong. It would swing over [mammoth tusks] and stick firmly to these little dots."
On May 23, 2007 a multi-disciplinary team of scientists announced (YouTube, 70mins, 7-parts, part1-1 is a summary)
the finding of physical evidence strongly suggesting that, around 12,900 years ago (10,900 BC), a massive Shoemaker-Levy type comet hit the atmosphere, air burst over the Great Lakes region of North America and probably engulfed much of the continent in a fireball and subsequent firestorm with catastrophic effects for life and climate. [more inside]
Here's an excellent map if you want to see Comet Holmes/17P tonight
(the comet that, until a couple of nights ago you would have needed a pretty good-sized telescope to even see. Then (out of the blue, as it were)
it unexpectedly brightened by over 1,000,000 times
to become an easy object for your naked eye –even with the nearly full moon in the sky). I did not know about CalSky
but (despite some less-than-attractive web design) is truly the best of the web for online astronomy info and sky maps! [more inside]
And now for something completely different: A star with a tail like a comet.
(Cool pic). Don't know how
we missed it. It's one of the most well-known stars in the sky and the tail is 13 light-years long
, or about 20,000 times the average distance of Pluto from the sun.
Have you ever wondered what a solar eclipse would look like from space? The STEREO
(Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) has just sent back its view (awe-inspiring video included).
It has also sent back some gorgeous pictures
of our sun (and the McNaught Comet). For more media, check out the other galleries
(including some 3D images). For more about the project, see NASA's STEREO homepage
. Be sure to also stop by the Johns Hopkins University STEREO Page,
where you can download a mission guide (pdf), view animations, watch a video of the launch,
or even make your own papercraft STEREO model (pdf).
You can also learn more in six minute segments with their series of short educational videos.
Comets have long inspired fear
and it continues today. Nostradamus "prophesied":
Mabus then will soon die, there will come
Of people and beasts a horrible rout:
Then suddenly one will see vengeance,
Hundred, hand, thirst, hunger when the comet will run.
But who is Mabus
(Nostradamus' third antichrist
further inspire Muslim fundamentalists?
Stardust@home. The Stardust spacecraft
(discussed recently here
) should land in Utah early Saturday
, carrying in its hold a sprinkling of grains of interstellar dust. Researchers are seeking the public's help
in pinpointing the submicroscopic bits of dust. Participants will sift through the hundreds of thousands of pictures of the roughly square-foot collector plate.
This weekend, NASA
will order the Stardust
spacecraft to jettison its 100-pound capsule that contains comet dust. The capsule will hurdle through earth’s atmosphere and make a soft landing in the Utah desert. Not directly connected to last summer’s Deep Impact
, Stardust’s mission is to bring comet debris back to earth for study. Here’s hoping we don’t need the Wildfire lab
(NASA TV Live feed) This is just a heads up, only about 80 minutes until Deep Impact
(NASA mission page) slams into comet Tempel 1. Recent discussion here
What are you doing for July 4th
? I just found out I'll be working
. Our spacecraft Swift
is going to be observing comet Tempel1
at the time of the Deep Impact
encounter. (Previous discussed here
on MeFi 2 years ago.) We'll probably have images
and movies first, but the first images you'll see after the encounter will likely come from either JPL
. You can't have Penn State
Oh well, at least we will have a barbecue
at work to celebrate. Our acting Mission Director during this time is a great bloke from MSSL
. It is oddly appropriate to be celebrating the Fourth
with a person from the UK
Close-up images of comet Wild 2
were taken by the Stardust spacecraft
on Jan. 2, and NASA released 2 of them this week. The spacecraft flew within 149 miles of the comet, 242 million miles from Earth. Stardust has been overshadowed by the Mars Exploration Rover
, but I find it just as impressive, if not even more so. Now I'm looking forward to the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft
, which will reach Saturn on July 1.
NASA scientists want to know what the pristine inside of a comet looks like. What better way, then, than by blowing a 25-meter crater in one? Comet Tempel 1
, to be specific. Even better, send them your name
and they'll put it on a disc attached to the impactor spacecraft, which will be launched on December 30, 2004. It'll hit on the 4th of July, 2005.
The Rosetta Project
. Agh, it's a great concept
... I just wish they'd made the text something a little more secular. The aliens will probably take it all too literally.
Giant asteroid hurtling toward your planet? Don't know what to do? Don't call Bruce Willis
. Just build a giant airbag
the sucker away.
Let us prepare for impact.
A group of scientists is working on a standardized protocol for dealing with the possibility of a comet or massive asteroid striking the Earth, saying humans can do more than the dinosaurs ever could before a colossal impact precipitated their extinction 65 millions years ago.
"We have now overcome the giggle factor."
I don't know if we have........