Landing on a Comet

As if getting Rosetta to comet 67 G-C and then successfully entering an orbit. ESA is going to land on the comet with the little Philae. I am waiting to hear where though.

Want to hear something kind of sad? Mind that I don’t watch much television, but I’ve not heard one mention of this mission here in the states on any of the main “news media” outlets. One of, if not the coolest missions in years and years and nothing, except for NASA TV but that doesn’t count.

Anyway, ESA/ATG medialab have created this extended version of Philae touchdown animation to include visualisations of some of the science experiments on on the lander.

The animation begins with the deployment of Philae from Rosetta at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in November 2014. Rosetta will come to within about 10 km of the nucleus to deploy Philae, which will take several hours to reach the surface. Because of the comet’s extremely low gravity, landing gear will absorb the small forces of landing while ice screws in the probe’s feet and a harpoon system will lock the probe to the surface. At the same time a thruster on top of the lander will push it down to counteract the impulse of the harpoon imparted in the opposite direction. Once it is anchored to the comet, the lander will begin its primary science mission, based on its 64-hour initial battery lifetime. The animation then shows five of Philae’s 10 instruments in action: CIVA, ROLIS, SD2, MUPUS and APXS.

Rosetta’s Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI.

Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Rosetta Arrival Updates

ESA presented information of Rosetta arrival and orbit entry and first arrival images, science results and and upcoming highlights from comet 67P/C-G.

The video here is the first arrival images, science results and upcoming highlights part. This is about an hour long but it goes quick, a very good presentation. They need a podcast of this IMHO, perhaps they have one, I have to look around.

Want to see the arrival and orbit entry portion? See it here, I’ve not had a chance to look at it yet, that portion is a bit over one and half hours and I just started the one shown above for the second time.

Rosetta in Orbit!

Rosetta sees 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from 130 km. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta sees 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from 130 km. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

The orbital insertion process began this morning as Rosetta started the first leg of a series of three-legged triangular paths about the comet. The legs will be about 100 km long and it will take Rosetta between three and four days to complete each one.

The result? WOW! Look at this! 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from just 130 km / 81 miles. This is my favorite so far, the diversity of terrain is incredible.

Here’s ESA’s description:

Stunning close up detail focusing on a smooth region on the ‘base’ of the ‘body’ section of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera and downloaded today, 6 August. The image clearly shows a range of features, including boulders, craters and steep cliffs.

The image was taken from a distance of 130 km and the image resolution is 2.4 metres per pixel.

If you thought a comet was a smooth snowball, well, not so much:

sort of a snowball shape

really more of a peanut shape.

Volcanic Activity on Io



Volcanic outbursts on the Moon Io witnessed by the W. M. Keck and Gemini Observatories on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The images are amazing especially when you consider this moon is 3,700 km / 2,300 miles in diameter and it is the inner most moon of Jupiter.

While Io is known to be volcanic, this seems to be a bit unusual because three outbursts inside of two weeks is more then generally is anticipated in a year or even two. Not just that, but these are huge outbursts:

De Pater’s long-time colleague and coauthor Ashley Davies, a volcanologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., said that the recent eruptions resemble past events that spewed tens of cubic miles of lava over hundreds of square miles in a short period of time.

“These new events are in a relatively rare class of eruptions on Io because of their size and astonishingly high thermal emission,” he said. “The amount of energy being emitted by these eruptions implies lava fountains gushing out of fissures at a very large volume per second, forming lava flows that quickly spread over the surface of Io.”

Read the Keck press release here, very interesting.

Rosetta To Begin Orbiting

67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Rosetta will fire its thrusters for 6 minutes and 26 seconds at 09:00 UTC TODAY!  This is the first step in putting Rosetta in orbit around the comet — It all comes down to this!.

EDIT: ESA has some video coverage too, hope my connection holds up!

The fuzzy craters on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko are nice and clear in this Rosetta NavCam image from just 234 km / 145 miles.

Taken in 04 August, the comet is low in the image frame because of a trajectory adjustment after a rendezvous burn the previous day.

ESA Space in Images



The Eye of Saturn

A new look at the northern polar vortex on Saturn.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A new look at the northern polar vortex on Saturn. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Not really an eye of course, but it kind of looks like one.  This is a close up view of the northern polar vortex on Saturn taken from the Cassini spacecraft.  I enlarged the image and enhanced it a little to bring out the details a little more.  You can see the original here.

That “eye” is 2,000 km / 1,240 miles across, you can see clouds as them move some 150 meters per sec / 330 miles per hour.

Cassini was 2.2 million km / 1.4 million miles from Saturn at the time the image was taken.





A close up image of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from Rosetta’s NAVCAM. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

This view from Rosetta of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from just 300 km away. The image was taken on 03 August 2014, I have isolated and enlarged the comet for the detail.  Click the image for the original image from ESA.

You can get a full-res image from ESA by clicking here.

As always you can get the latest at the Rosetta blog.



Rosetta’s Orbit

Just days away from Rosetta’s orbital insertion around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Activity at the Rosetta Science Operations Center is hectic to say the least. Not only are they collecting data all the time, commands to control the spacecraft are constantly being refined and potential issues resolved as they happen. In fact the current set of commands aboard Rosetta expire at 12:00 CEST 05 August, so the commands for the next cycle of activity, including a thruster burn on Wednesday need to be ready for upload tonight. Then the commands have to get there!

The cycle of commands to be uploaded tonight will control the spacecraft until Sunday.

Pretty exciting stuff! Check out the Rosetta blog for more detail.

Details Emerge

67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from Rosetta.  Click for larger. Copyright ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from Rosetta. Click for larger. Copyright ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

We are starting to see some detail on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as Rosetta closes in.

ESA’s descripiton:

Full-frame NAVCAM image taken on 2 August 2014 from a distance of about 500 km from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image has been processed using an interpolation technique and the resolution has been increased from 1024 x 1024 to 5120 x 5120 pixels.