One Year to Go

Only a year before we arrive at Pluto.

Only? Don’t worry there is so much going on in space science the time will pass quickly I think. Next up Rosetta and if you have not seen the new animation of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko do check it out. Weird shape, kind of like a boot, we will see a clear image shortly. Is it one chunk or two stuck together?


Rosetta Getting Close

Rosetta uses the OSIRIS imaging system to get a look at its destination. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta uses the OSIRIS imaging system to get a look at its destination. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta is getting close and Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko looks to be a very good choice. The since the previous image release on 4 July, Rosetta as reduced its distance to the comet by 25,000 km (to 12,000 km from 35,000 km).

BE SURE to check out the link in the description below – Great site!

Description from ESA:

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was imaged on 14 July 2014 by OSIRIS, Rosetta’s scientific imaging system, from a distance of approximately 12 000 km. This image has been processed using ‘sub-sampling by interpolation’, a technique that removes the pixelisation and makes a smoother image. It does not, however, reveal hidden detail and it is therefore important to note that the comet’s surface is not very likely to be as smooth as the processing implies. The image suggests that the comet may consist of two parts: one segment seems to be rather elongated, while the other appears more bulbous.

Read more via the blog: The dual personality of comet 67P/C-G

Spectacular NGC 1433

NGC 1433 from Hubble.  Click for larger. Copyright ESA/Hubble & NASA

NGC 1433 from Hubble. Click for larger. Copyright ESA/Hubble & NASA

If you venture over to the ESA site you can see a Hi-res version of this beauty.

This view, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows a nearby spiral galaxy known as NGC 1433. At about 32 million light-years from Earth, it is a type of very active galaxy known as a Seyfert galaxy — a classification that accounts for 10% of all galaxies. They have very bright, luminous centres comparable to that of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

Here is a bit more data on NGC 1433 including a “more normal” image to compare this incredible Hubble image too.

20 Years Ago


20 years? Already? Hard to believe but true.

Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacted the planet Jupiter 16 July 1994. The comet broke up under the influence of the gravitational pull of the planet during a close pass in July 1992 (was within the Roche limit) and impacted two years later.

The image above is one of many images you can find at our Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 page. Be sure to visit the links for the legendary Eugene Shoemaker too.

Image credit: NASA

Antares and a Supermoon

Antares rocket and a supermoon on Saturday.  Image Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Antares rocket and a supermoon on Saturday. Image Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Nice picture from NASA of the Super Moon setting over the Orbital Science Antares rocket with the Cygnus cargo ship ready for flight. See the original here (suitable for a nice desktop).

The Antares did launch successfully today. Nice launch too, although I admit to doing the same thing as the last launch: as the Antares first leaves the pad, I’m saying ” come on, come on – get up there you can do it”. There is a (short) time where it looks like the rocket is just able to lift itself, a short time, yes but long enough to get me wondering! Here’s a replay if you missed it. So far everything looks great with Cygnus.

Now hopefully you got a look at the nice full moon we had. It was really quite spectacular. This full moon was just one of three in a row. Yes! August and September will also have the perigee “Supermoons”.

Here is a NASA ScienceCast video explaining the Supermoons.

Eta Carinae Nebula in 3D

Part of the story from the YouTube site:

Between 1838 and 1845, Eta Carinae underwent a period of unusual variability during which it briefly outshone Canopus, normally the second-brightest star. As a part of this event, which astronomers call the Great Eruption, a gaseous shell containing at least 10 and perhaps as much as 40 times the sun’s mass was shot into space. This material forms a twin-lobed dust-filled cloud known as the Homunculus Nebula, which is now about a light-year long and continues to expand at more than 1.3 million mph (2.1 million km/h).

Reminder: Cygnus is ready to launch at 16:52 UTC (12:52 EDT). Check this post to see if you can see the Cygnus and Antares rocket as it goes into orbit.

Venus Express

After eight years in orbit, ESA’s Venus Express has completed routine science observations and is preparing for a daring plunge into the planet’s hostile atmosphere.

Venus Express was launched on 9 November 2005, and arrived at Venus on 11 April 2006.

It has been orbiting Venus in an elliptical 24-hour loop that takes it from a distant 66 000 km over the south pole — affording incredible global views — to an altitude of around 250 km above the surface at the north pole, close to the top of the planet’s atmosphere.

With a suite of seven instruments, the spacecraft has provided a comprehensive study of the ionosphere, atmosphere and surface of Venus.

This video includes interviews in English with Håkan Svedhem, ESA mission scientist and Patrick Martin, ESA Venus Express mission manager

Launch Day Tomorrow

If you live along the US east coast you may get a look at the Antares rocket as shown in the map. Image: NASA / Orbital Sciences



Mission/Orbiter:Orbital Sciences Orbital-2 Cargo resupply / Cygnus spacecraft

Mission Highlights: This mission will deliver more than 1,360 kg (3000 lbs) of assorted supplies, hardware and tools. A group of nanosatellites are part of the scientific payloads. The nanosats will capture imagery of Earth, will aid in development of a way to return small samples from the ISS and student-designed experiments.

Current Status: Go

Launch Date UPDATED:  Sunday 13 July 2014 16:52 UTC (12:52 EDT)

Launch Facility:Wallops Flight Facility (Virginia)

Rosetta gets Closer


Here’s an animated version of images released by ESA, hopefully you get some sense of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s rotation.


From ESA:

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, taken by the narrow angle camera of Rosetta’s scientific imaging system, OSIRIS, on 4 July 2014, at a distance of 37 000 km. The three images are separated by 4 hours, and are shown in order from left to right. The comet has a rotation period of about 12.4 hours. It covers an area of about 30 pixels, and although individual features are not yet resolved, the image is beginning to reveal the comet’s irregular shape.