Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as observed on Februaray 28th, 2014, with the Very Large Telescope.
Left: In order to make the comet visible, the scientists superposed several exposures. The images were shifted to compensate for the comet’s motion. The stars appear as broadly smudged lines.
Right: Subtracting the starry backgrouns reveals the comet.
Caption and Image © MPS/ESO
We can now see Rosetta’s goal, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko thanks to researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and the European Southern Observatory. The comet disappeared behind the sun last October and it is just now out of the glare enough to be seen.
They took the image above with ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Actually the image is several exposures stacked together. Think of it is adding all the images together to bring out the features. 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is small, around 3 x 5 km and it is about 740 million km / 460 million miles so it is very faint.
The new image suggests that 67P is beginning to emit gas and dust at a relatively large distance from the Sun – Colin Snodgrass from the MPS
The comet will become more visible to researchers as it gets closer.
Read more at the Max Planck Institute.
The third closest star system to the sun, called WISE J104915.57-531906, is at the center of the larger image, which was taken by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). It appeared to be a single object, but a sharper image from Gemini Observatory in Chile (inset), revealed that it was binary star system, consisting of a pair of brown dwarfs. This is the closest star system to be discovered in nearly a century. The discovery was announced in March, 2013.
Caption and Image: NASA/JPL/Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF/Berkeley.edu
There seems to be no Planet X. There has been an ongoing idea of a planet outside the orbit of Pluto. Surveys by the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) turned up thousands of “new to us” stars and brown dwarfs within 500 light-years, but no Planets.
The outer solar system probably does not contain a large gas giant planet, or a small, companion star
- Kevin Luhman of the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University, University Park, Pa., author of a paper in the Astrophysical Journal describing the results.
The recent study, looking at WISE data found no objects Saturn sized or larger to a distance of 10,000 A.U. and no Jupiter sized or larger out to 26,000 A.U. In rough terms 1 A.U. is about 150 million km / 93 million miles.
Read more about this at The WISE page at Berkeley, it is worth the visit I promise!.
Yuri Gagarin and news of the first human in space. Credit: NASA (linked below)
Today Yuri Gagarin would have been 90 years old. “Yuri” was a Soviet cosmonaut and pilot and became the first human in space, completing an orbit in his Vostok spacecraft on 12 April 1961.
Gagarin was killed in a training accident (March 1968) when the jet he was piloting crashed. Gagarin’s death was (and still is) was fodder for conspiracy theorists as it apparently completely isn’t certain. Official reports indicate weather was a factor.
Today the anniversary of significant space exploration milestones is marked by a worldwide celebration named for Gagarin – Yuri’s Night.
Yuri’s Night began on 12 April 2001, 40 years after the historic and world-changing flight. One of the main goals is to increase public interest in space exploration. It also happens that the flight of STS-1, the very first Space Shuttle mission was launched on 12 April 1981.
I always have fun on Yuri’s Night, after a long, cold winter it will feel good to get out.
Yuri’s night isn’t just big, it’s HUGE! Last year something like 350 star parties were held in almost 60 countries and many-many more on-line celebrations.
Look for a celebration near you:
Yuri’s Night – The World’s Space Party
The image above comes from NASA, see the caption and a link to archival Gagarin video here.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Tomorrow is the premier of the updated version of the iconic television series, Cosmos. The original version is of course was hosted by Carl Sagan and aired in 1980, Cosmos: A personal journey.
The new version is hosed by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I was lucky enough to have seen the first episode and Tyson seems perfect for the role.
The 13-episode series is billed as “An epic Adventure in time, space and life”. Tyson has a line in the first episode that sums things up nicely: ”It’s time to get going again”.
One of the show’s producers is Ann Druyan, a producer known for Contact (1997) and was married to Carl Sagan from 1981 until his death in 1996.
I could not believe my eyes when I read another of the group of producers was Seth MacFarlane – yes THAT Seth MacFarlane. I’m not sure why this surprises me, although I am very pleased so see him on the team.
You can see this in FOX starting on 9 March 2014 and NatGeo on 10 March 2014. Check your local listings for times. The series premier is scheduled for 9pm Eastern 8pm Central on FOX (01:00 UTC if I did the math correctly).
Visit the official site: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.
There is another show coming at weeks end “Live from the Space”, more on that about mid-week.
I first saw this and thought Hubble caught a comet breaking up, turns out it isn’t it’s an asteroid! Not to mention another Hubble first. The four largest fragments are as much as 200 meters in diameter.
“This is a rock. Seeing it fall apart before our eyes is pretty amazing,” said David Jewitt of UCLA, USA, who led the astronomical forensics investigation.
Get the story at ESA’s Hubble page.
Sounding Rocket Launches Into Aurora Over Venetie, Alaska Image Credit: NASA/Christopher Perry
On March 3, 2014, at 6:09 a.m. EST, a NASA-funded sounding rocket launched straight into an aurora over Venetie, Alaska. The Ground-to-Rocket Electrodynamics – Electron Correlative Experiment (GREECE) sounding rocket mission, which launched from Poker Flat Research Range in Poker Flat, Alaska, will study classic curls in the aurora in the night sky.
The GREECE mission seeks to understand what combination of events sets up these auroral curls as they’re called, in the charged, heated gas – or plasma – where aurorae form. This is a piece of information, which in turn, helps paint a picture of the sun-Earth connection and how energy and particles from the sun interact with Earth’s own magnetic system, the magnetosphere.
You can get desktop versions at the NASA site or at the Wallpaper link under the banner above.
Comet C/2014 C3 a weirdo comet is the first found by NEOWISE. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) now has a comet discovery.
Officially named “C/2014 C3 (NEOWISE)”, the first comet discovery of the renewed mission came on Feb. 14 when the comet was about 143 million miles (230 million kilometers) from Earth.
The odd thing about this comet is that is in a retrograde orbit. Amy Mainzer, the mission’s principal investigator from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “This comet is a weirdo – it is in a retrograde orbit, meaning that it orbits the sun in the opposite sense from Earth and the other planets.”
Check out the story here at the WISE website.
Curiosity gives us this amazing lookback after passing Junda. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, took this image on sol 548 (19 Feb 2014. The rover was looking back after a days drive. We can see Junda on the left and looking to the left we can see the tracks seemingly coming from the from the background highlands.
This scene would be the envy of any sci-fi illustrator.
The rows of rocks just to the right of the fresh wheel tracks in this view are an outcrop called “Junda.” The rows form striations on the ground, a characteristic seen in some images of this area taken from orbit. A panorama made from Navcam images taken during a pause to observe Junda partway through the Sol 548.
For scale, the distance between Curiosity’s parallel wheel tracks is about 9 feet (2.7 meters). This view is looking toward the east-northeast.
A Star Factory as seen my Herschel. Copyright ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE. Acknowledgements: Cassie Fallscheer (University of Victoria), Mike Reid (University of Toronto) and the Herschel HOBYS team
Nice! This is Herschel’s look at NGC 7538 a giant cloud of hydrogen and bits of dust – a stellar nursery. The dust also shines in the far-infrared which works out great for Herschel, ESA’s far-infrared space observatory.
Have a look at the Simbad page for NGC 7538 for a different view of it (optical I think).
Be sure to pay a visit to ESA’s Star factory NGC 7538 for the particulars.
According to the PlanetQuest website the exoplanet count is now: 1,690 confirmed and 3,845 candidates – 5,535 exoplanets.
To think just over 20-years ago there were none.
Have some fun at Exoplanet.eu and PlanetQuest.