Mars landing this Wednesday: On Wednesday, Oct. 19th, a European Space Agency (ESA) probe named “Schiaparelli” will parachute to the surface of Mars after a plunge through the atmosphere. Schiaparelli hitched a ride to Mars onboard the Trace Gas Orbiter, launched from Earth last March. The Trace Gas Orbiter is a satellite that will spend the next few years scanning the Red Planet for chemical signs of life–especially biogenic methane. You can follow the action on the ESA’s live webcast. What do you think they’ll find?
This is comet 67 P taken from ESA’s Rosetta probe from 14 miles above the surface as Rosetta was approaching the comet to land on its surface. This occurred about 7:20 am (EDT) this morning. Rosetta continued taking pictures until it touched down. As it got closer, the resolution showed remarkable detail (see below). Each pixel covered 10 cm of area. The mission was a success.
Found: Philae lander finally spotted by Rosetta on comet 67P
Remember the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe from November 2014? It went to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and the Philae Lander touched down on the comet…and bounced, coming to rest in a shadow, preventing its batteries from charging. The lander did manage to operate for 3 days, sending back some pictures and other radar information. Unfortunately, the location of the lander had been undetermined until now. Images taken by the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft show Philae wedged against a dark cliff on the comet’s surface. This came just weeks before Rosetta is expected to make its own landing on the comet, ending the successful two-year mission.
The agency has known Philae’s rough location since June 2015, when unexpectedly, the lander woke up and briefly resumed radio contact. Since then, pinpointing its exact location has been the goal of the mission. Cecilia Tubiana said, “With only a month left of the Rosetta mission, we are so happy to have finally imaged Philae, and to see it in such amazing detail.”
Knowing the landing site will help mission scientists fully understand the data gathered by the probe. Now the data relayed back to Earth can be associated with a location.
But Rosetta doesn’t have long to celebrate this success. On September 30th, Rosetta will be commanded to land on 67P’s surface. It was never designed to do that. They’re planning to reduce landing speed to 1.2 mph. This will provide scientists a second chance to study a comet up close. Rosetta will end up in a slightly different part of the comet, where gas outbursts are erupting into space. Scientists hope to get information on the gas and dust being ejected from the comet.
Stay tuned for information as it becomes available.
ASTEROID BUZZES EARTH, HEADS FOR MOON: Newly discovered asteroid2016 RB1 flew past Earth on Sept 7th only 25,000 miles above our planet’s south pole. Because of the asteroid’s southern trajectory, it did not pass within the orbits of any communication or weather satellites–but it was close. After it buzzed Earth, the space rock turned and headed for the Moon, executing a wider flyby of 179,000 miles on Sept. 8th. Researchers say 2016 RB1 is ~50 ft in diameter, about the size of a grey whale.
Well, as thought, it missed. And by 4,000 miles more than the original guess. But it was still close. Keep track of Near Earth Asteroids on spaceweather.com. And not just asteroids; if you attended our presentation of “Space Weather, Earth Climate”, you may remember how we said cosmic rays affect our climate. Well, you can track how cosmic rays are affecting our climate on spaceweather.com.
Check it out and stay tuned for information on a probe heading for an asteroid for surface samples. Reports to follow soon.
ASTEROID FLYBY: Today, Sept. 7th, a truck-sized asteroid is flying past Earth only 21,000 miles above our planet’s surface. At closest approach, 2016 RB1 will actually skim the orbital-zone of geosynchronous satellites. The odds of an impact with any spacecraft are, however, negligibly low. image.
This one was discovered just yesterday (Sept. 6). This happens on occasion. We don’t always see them coming with much warning. This one is a little smaller than the one that exploded over Russia (bus sized) a couple of years ago. 21,000 miles is close. But it is a miss. And this one is only one of two discovered yesterday. Discoveries have been averaging 1 a week lately.
This picture comes compliments of spaceweather.com. Not only can you see the planets in the picture, but Saturn and Mars are visible just above the moon but outside of this field of view. It’s not often we see all five naked-eye planets aligned like this. And if you have a telescope, you can view Neptune rising just as Venus sets.
This is impressive, but better than this, in the year 2040 (I hope to be here to see it), these same planets (all 5) will be in conjunction. beginning in June, they all will begin moving closer to each other until September 8, at 3:00 pm, when they will converge to within a few degrees of each other in the constellation Virgo around the star Porima. This appearance is known as the “Grand Conjunction” and occurs only once every 4,000 years. On top of this, the Moon (as a New Moon) will be there also. And Uranus and Neptune will be in the sky (but not in conjunction with the rest) at the same time.
When you hear about Earth’s changing climate, you never hear that space weather affects Earth’s climate. But it does! Come to Astronomy Night on July 30 at Mackay Garden in Lake Alfred and learn the connection. We start at 7:00 pm, rain or shine.
We presented material to the Winter Haven & Lakeland Civil Air Patrol how the Sun relates to us and affects us here on Earth, and how it affects our electronics and even avionics. We also spoke about celestial navigation and instruments used for navigation.
The Lakeland Sun-n-Fun Fly-In is the second largest Fly-in/Airshow in the US. It brings pilots and aviation enthusiasts from all around the world. And we are there to educate the public on the relationship between aviation and astronomy. Here a group of RAF cadets from the UK enjoy a look at the Sun, “Up close and personal”.