Category Archives: Comets

See Comet Lovejoy Tonight

A beautiful image of Comet Lovejoy from Andrew Dumont.
A beautiful image of Comet Lovejoy from Andrew Dumont.

Want to see a comet?

You can see this comet for yourself. The comet C/2014 Q2 or Comet Lovejoy is easily visible with binoculars. If you can see the constellation Orion and Taurus you should be all set.

I just used the finders chart from NASA (see it here). Stepped out on back porch and after watching a satellite pass over, found the Comet in just a couple of minutes. I did use binoculars (could not see the comet otherwise). The binoculars were nothing special so if you have a pair handy give it a try. If you have a even a small telescope this looks really cool.

Cloudy skies?  The comet will be around for a bit so don’t worry if you have to wait a short time.

Could it be visible with the naked eye?  I would think so.  I am going to try in the morning, the best skies I get.  I could not see it a while ago, too cold to be outside for too long and not be well prepared, so I can’t say for sure.

Sleep Well Little Philae

Decline in battery power aboard Philae. Credit: ESA via Twitter
Decline in battery power aboard Philae. Credit: ESA via Twitter

The Philae lander is now in an “idle mode” in which most of the systems on board are shut down, including communications.

Before going to sleep, Philae was able to send all of the science data collected so far and completed its main mission in the 57 hours on the comet surface.

Stephan Ulamec, Lander Manager said “This machine performed magnificently under tough conditions, and we can be fully proud of the incredible scientific success Philae has delivered.”

Contact with Philae was lost at 00:36 UT (20:36 EST for the US), according to Rosetta Blog this was about the time of a scheduled loss of signal anyway as Rosetta which was acting as a repeater orbited out of sight of Philae.

Rosetta mission control did try to rotate the lander as was reported and with that effort there was a possibility of communications at 10:00 UTC (05:00 EST) this morning (15 Nov) so Rosetta was listening but no signal came.

As Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko gets closer to the Sun there is a possibility enough sunlight will eventually revive the batteries enough to get Philae back on-line. Still I have to wonder if the deep discharge state of the batteries will preclude that given the time and cold environment – time will tell.

A Stunning Look at Philae

Philae is right at home. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA
Philae is right at home. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

WOW! This is just simply amazing.

This is a two image mosaic of Philae on the surface of the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Click the image and just marvel at the view of both Philae and the surface features.

You can get an even larger version at Rosetta blog’s Welcome to a Comet!

Philae is pretty close to a cliff that will shadow the solar panels for much of a day and this will limit how much Philae will be able to do at least in the short term. I’m pretty sure ESA is studying how to squeeze the most out of what they have you can be sure of that.
ESA is live streaming the media briefings, you can find out when by going to Rosetta Blog or you can check the Live Stream page.

Don’t forget about Twitter, I am on the run a lot the past couple days and it has been great for keeping up you can get all the images and briefings there too.

What a Day!

 ROLIS descent image of Comet 67P/C-G. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR

ROLIS descent image of Comet 67P/C-G. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR

As the Philae lander approached comet 67P/G-C it used the ROLIS instrument to take this image at 14:38:41 UT from just 3 km / 1.9 miles above the surface.

The ROLIS instrument looks downward during descent and gets close up views after landing so texture and microsturcture of surface materials.

Yes, that is part of the lander you see in the upper right.

ROLIS (ROsetta Lander Imaging System) is a descent and close-up camera on the Philae Lander. It has been developed by the DLR Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin.

I had to include the image below, I think it’s just excellent. We are looking at the Philae lander shortly after being released from the mother ship (Rosetta) after a 10 year trip together on this totally amazing mission.

Good luck Philae. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Good luck Philae. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

No word yet on what is going on with the harpoons (anchors), but ESA did mention “Maybe today we didn’t just land once…we even landed twice!”

There will be plenty more images here, but check out the Rosetta Blog.

ESA Rosetta Mission on Twitter

Congratulations ESA !

I bet the smiles are abundant and they should be. :mrgreen:

Good Luck Philae!

GOOD LUCK!  I can hardly believe the day has finally come – it’s been a long time!

Update:  Landing confirmed.  Harpoons did not fire, investigation in progress.  The one way radio travel time is a bit over 28 minutes – each way.

ESA is reporting all is well with Philae is in good shape despite the harpoons.

If you see no video above it is because ESA isn’t broadcasting at the time.

Check out the Rosetta Blog and for last second updates.


Two Days Away

Rosetta's NAVCAM image just 31.8 km from the centre of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 4 November 2014 ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
Rosetta’s NAVCAM image just 31.8 km from the centre of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 4 November 2014 ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

An image  on 04 November shows some activity in the way of the jets emanating from the central region of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve developed quite an interest in what the cometary “soil” is like and how it got to be the way it is.  Happily we could get more clues just watching the Philae lander land on Wednesday. If the composition is very fine we could see quite a cloud kicked up relative to how much is at the landing site of course.

If you would like the four individual panels making up this image you can get them at Comet Watch


Making History

Just three days away.

This is Friday’s press conference with Rosetta mission experts hosted by Emily Baldwin, ESA space science editor / Rosetta Blog

The video is in distinct segments of about 15 minutes and questions at the end.

Introduction and mission plans fellowed by Science at 15 minutes, Landing at 30 minutes and Summary at 45 followed by questions.

Video link

About the Mars Comet

A teleconference discussing some of the science findings from the C/2013 A1 Siding Spring (aka: the Mars Comet) fly by of the planet Mars.

A bit technical here and there but very well explained and totally worth seeing.

BTW, it takes a few minutes to get going.

The participants were:

  • Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington
  • Nick Schneider, instrument lead for MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Mehdi Benna, instrument scientist for MAVEN’s Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • Don Gurnett, co-investigator on the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding instrument on Mars Express, University of Iowa, Iowa City
  • Alan Delamere, co-investigator for MRO’s HiRISE instrument, Delamere Support Services, Boulder, Colorado


Rosetta’s Comet


Wow, what a great view of a comet you can get from just 30 km (18.6 miles).

Click the image above for a larger version and enjoy the detail.

Caption via NASA:

This image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was obtained on October 30, 2014 by the OSIRIS scientific imaging system on the Rosetta spacecraft. The right half is obscured by darkness. The image was taken from a distance of approximately 18.6 miles (30 kilometers).
Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team