Rosetta Update

Comet 67P/C-G on 4 June. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Comet 67P/C-G on 4 June. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Here’s the latest image of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko from ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft. Mission managers have been busy with a series of maneuvers designed to bring the spacecraft in line with the comet for the August rendezvous.

The journey for Rosetta has been underway for 10-years, beginning in February 2004 when it was launched from Kourou in French Guiana. It will soon reach its destination 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and even now Rosetta is taking data about the comet.

The comet appeared to show some activity in the last image from Rosetta but not so much in this one. As Emily at the Rosetta blog posts: Expect the Unexpected

Venus Express

This sequence of images was taken by the Ultraviolet/Visible/Near-Infrared spectrometer (VIRTIS) on board ESA’s Venus Express - see link below.   Credits: ESA/VIRTIS/INAF-IASF/Obs. de Paris-LESIA

This sequence of images was taken by the Ultraviolet/Visible/Near-Infrared spectrometer (VIRTIS) on board ESA’s Venus Express – see link below. Credits: ESA/VIRTIS/INAF-IASF/Obs. de Paris-LESIA

The ESA Venus Express has been orbiting our neighboring planet for eight-years and is about to come to an end with one final contribution.

The Venus Express will begin an aerobraking maneuver and enter the atmosphere of the planet. The aerobraking phase was planned for 18 June to 11 July, during which time the spacecraft will be able to sample from altitudes not accessible in orbit.

We should hear something soon.

In the mean time.

Atlas

The tiny Saturn moon Atlas. Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The tiny Saturn moon Atlas. Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Nice! The Saturn moon Atlas, not one we often get to see. Atlas was discovered in 1980 thanks to the Voyager spacecraft and JPL employee Richard Terrile. As moons go Atlas is tiny being only around 30 km (18 miles) in diameter.

From the Cassini site:

The Cassini spacecraft captures a glimpse of the moon Atlas shortly after emerging from Saturn’s shadow. Although the sunlight at Saturn’s distance is feeble compared to that at the Earth, objects cut off from the Sun within Saturn’s shadow cool off considerably.

 

Scientists study how the moons around Saturn cool and warm as they enter and leave Saturn’s shadow to better understand the physical properties of Saturn’s moons.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 44 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Jan. 23, 2014.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.6 million miles (2.6 million kilometers) from Atlas and at a Sun-Atlas-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 93 degrees. Image scale is 10 miles (16 kilometers) per pixel.

Hubble Sees NGC 3081

Hubble's view of NGC 3081.  Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA; acknowledgement: R. Buta (University of Alabama) Text credit: European Space Agency

Hubble’s view of NGC 3081. Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA; acknowledgement: R. Buta (University of Alabama)  Text credit: European Space Agency

Another stunning image from the Hubble!

NGC 3081 is about 34.3 Mpc away (that’s about 112 Million light-years!) in the constellation of Hydra. There are two People credited with the discovery of this galaxy: by William Herschel on 21 Dec 1786 and later listed as NGC 3081, and by Lewis Swift on 11 Apr 1898 and later listed as IC 2529. The internet was slower back then. Just kidding, it’s not at all far fetched to have independent discoveries.

NGC and IC are both catalogs. IC is for the Index Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars which is an update to the New General Catalogue. NGC was put together in the 1880’s by John Dreyer using data from William and John Herschel (father and son). The Index Catalogue or IC was published in two sections by Dreyer in 1895 and 1908.

I think there are at around 7840 entries in the NGC.

ESA’s description (via NASA):

Taking center stage in this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is a galaxy known as NGC 3081, set against an assortment of glittering galaxies in the distance. Located in the constellation of Hydra (The Sea Serpent), NGC 3081 is located over 86 million light-years from us. It is known as a type II Seyfert galaxy, characterized by its dazzling nucleus.

NGC 3081 is seen here nearly face-on. Compared to other spiral galaxies, it looks a little different. The galaxy’s barred spiral center is surrounded by a bright loop known as a resonance ring. This ring is full of bright clusters and bursts of new star formation, and frames the supermassive black hole thought to be lurking within NGC 3081 — which glows brightly as it hungrily gobbles up in-falling material.
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The Beast

A few days ago you may recall there was an asteroid that passed by Earth. The asteroid passed about three times further from us than our moon. Yes that is quite a ways out, but compared to cosmic distances, pretty close.

NASA was able to get some great images of the more than 366 meter (1200 ft) long oblong shaped rock once it had passed. The video above was pieced together from images taken at a range of 1.25 and 1.39 million km (774,000 to 864,000 miles).

The images were captured by the 70-meter Goldstone antenna working with the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

As an aside: Arecibo is located in a seismically active area being not far from the Caribbean plate boundary. Generally the quakes are fairly small, for example yesterday 14 June there was a magnitude 2.7 quake at a depth of 26 km (22.4 miles) occurred 75 km (47 miles) out in the ocean and that was among eight occurring in the previous 24 hours having magnitudes of 2.7 to 3.2. Sure those are pretty small but I wonder if they are noticed by the observatory especially during an observing run.

The same could be asked of the ESO and Keck now that I think of it, it’s just that Arecibo is so huge.

Slowing Rosetta

It all comes down to this: slow Rosetta enough so the spacecraft will not just fly right on by comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Slow Rosetta too much and it will not keep up with the comet.

I’m not too worried, ESA is up to the challenge.

Source

A Puzzle a la Herschel

NGC 7538 from Herschel. Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Whitman College

NGC 7538 from Herschel. Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Whitman College

We know that NGC 7538 is a star factory from Herschel data (see earlier post), turns out there is a puzzling feature located there too:

The Herschel Space Observatory has uncovered a weird ring of dusty material while obtaining one of the sharpest scans to date of a huge cloud of gas and dust, called NGC 7538. The gigantic ring structure is situated at the center-top of this image. The odd ovoid possesses the mass of 500 suns, with its long axis spanning about 35 light-years and its short axis about 25 light-years.
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LDSD Update

Here is the The launch tower that will help the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator test vehicle to a balloon.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Here is the The launch tower that will help the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator test vehicle to a balloon. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) launch has been put off until some other time after 14 June (Saturday) due to weather.

Launching is not as easy as just waiting out the weather. This from NASA’s LDSD Launch Status Updates: “NASA will research range availability for the coming weeks and the costs associated with extending the test flight period for launching LDSD’s high-altitude balloon and test vehicle, with programmatic decisions required to proceed.”.

 

 

Prometheus

Prometheus a shephard moon of Saturn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Prometheus a shepherd moon of Saturn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The little moon Prometheus is featured in this image is creating channels (gores) and streamers in the F ring of Saturn. Prometheus and Pandora are believed to be responsible for much of the structure of the ring.  Can’t see the moon?  Look at the speck at about 10 O’clock.

Prometheus is only 86 km (53 miles) across and has an orbit that regularly brings it to the F ring. When the encounter occurs as we can see the gores where it enters and streamers pulled away in its wake as it exits.

There is a movie of this happening and you can see it here.