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

Video

Rosetta’s Comet

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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

Mars and Comet Siding Spring

A Hubble look at Mars and comet Siding Spring. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/PSI/JHU/APL, STScI/AURA

A Hubble look at Mars and comet Siding Spring. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/PSI/JHU/APL, STScI/AURA

Have a look at this Hubble image of Mars AND comet Siding Spring in the same field of view during the close pass on 19 October. The comet came as close as 140,000 km / 87,000 miles – only a third of our Earth to Moon distance. I am trying to imagine what that would be like.

This from Hubblesite:

This composite of NASA Hubble Space Telescope images captures the positions of comet Siding Spring and Mars in a never-before-seen close passage of a comet by the Red Planet, which happened at 2:28 p.m. EDT October 19, 2014. The comet passed by Mars at approximately 87,000 miles (about one-third of the distance between Earth and the Moon). At that time, the comet and Mars were approximately 149 million miles from Earth.

 

The comet image shown here is a composite of Hubble exposures taken between Oct. 18, 8:06 a.m. EDT to Oct. 19, 11:17 p.m. EDT. Hubble took a separate photograph of Mars at 10:37 p.m. EDT on Oct. 18.

The Mars and comet images have been added together to create a single picture to illustrate the angular separation, or distance, between the comet and Mars at closest approach. The separation is approximately 1.5 arc minutes, or one-twentieth of the angular diameter of the full Moon. The background starfield in this composite image is synthesized from ground-based telescope data provided by the Palomar Digital Sky Survey, which has been reprocessed to approximate Hubble’s resolution. The solid icy comet nucleus is too small to be resolved in the Hubble picture. The comet’s bright coma, a diffuse cloud of dust enshrouding the nucleus, and a dusty tail, are clearly visible.

 

This is a composite image because a single exposure of the stellar background, comet Siding Spring, and Mars would be problematic. Mars is actually 10,000 times brighter than the comet, and so could not be properly exposed to show detail in the Red Planet. The comet and Mars were also moving with respect to each other and so could not be imaged simultaneously in one exposure without one of the objects being motion blurred. Hubble had to be programmed to track on the comet and Mars separately in two different observations.

 

The images were taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3.

Comet Encounter with Mars

In just a few days Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring will make a close approach to the planet Mars.

Mark you calendars  19 October 2014 at 18:51 UTC.

The comet will come as close as 140,000 km /87,000 miles, that is only about a third of the distance to the moon. Can you just imagine what that would look like?

Video

Slowing Rosetta

The Rosetta spacecraft is about to fire thrusters to slow down in preparation for its comet encounter in a few months.

Nine thruster burns between 21 May and 05 August (plus kind of a practice burn earlier this month) will slow Rosetta from 750 ms  to just 1 ms so the encounter with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The distance to the comet will decrease from a million kilometers to just 200 during this time.

video.

May Camelopardalis

Earth is set to cross the debris path of comet 209P/LINEAR on 24 May 2014. No one knows quite what to expect. I’ll be finding out provided we have decent clouds.

The video suggests the best time is going to be around 0600 to 0800 UTC. If you are on the east coast of North America earlier in that range might be better because daybreak will be shortly after 0800 UTC.

How to find Camelopardalis? On the 24th (or any other time in the near future) you can find Camelopardalis by looking north. If the meteor shower is as busy as it could be, the location will be self evident. However, if there are only a few meteors or you just want to find it and have no idea, find the “Little Dipper” aka: Ursa Minor, and look from the dipper part down the “handle”, it points right to the area.

Still confused? Look above your northern horizon. Here’s a guide to help you out.

Video source

A Weirdo Comet – C/2014 C3

Comet C/2014 C3 a weirdo comet is the first found by NEOWISE. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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.

Comet Totas

Four images stacked and centered on the Comet. Creidit: TOTASESA/TOTAS/M. Micheli

Sometimes you just get a lucky break. A team of astronomers with Europe’s Teide Observatory Tenerife Asteroid Survey team (TOTAS) has been credited with discovering comet P/2014 C1, named ‘TOTAS’ in recognition of the teamwork involved in the find.

The group found the comet while doing “routine” observations using a 1m telescope at ESA’s Optical Ground Station, Tenerife, Spain.

This isn’t one of those far flung comets. TOTAS orbits is between Mars and Jupiter and there it stays so it will never be close to Earth (all other things being equal that is). TOTAS is rather dim from reports, being only a magnitude 18 to 20 and this no doubt explains why it was just found. Like I said sometimes it takes a lucky break, I can just imagine how tickled the team was when they found out what they discovered.

If you would like to see an animated gif of TOTAS take a look at the ESA page.

Mars Comet Update

Comet 2013 A1 Siding Spring image taken by the NEOWISE mission. Click for larger. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

You may remember a story about a comet coming quite close to the planet Mars. NASA’s NEOWISE mission captured this image of the comet which is heading towards Mars and currently just inside the orbit of Jupiter.

The comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring will come within 138,000 km / 88,000 miles of the Martian surface. so the comet will miss Mars, however, dust from the comet could actually enevolop the planet.

This from NASA:

NASA’s NEOWISE mission captured images of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring, which is slated to make a close pass by Mars on Oct. 19, 2014. The infrared pictures reveal a comet that is active and very dusty even though it was about 355 million miles (571 million kilometers) away from the sun on Jan. 16, 2014, when this picture was taken.

The infrared measurements will allow astronomers to determine the sizes and quantity of dust particles being flung off the comet. The measurements will also give engineers some indications of what orbiting spacecraft at Mars might expect when the comet gets close. Preliminary analysis of the data indicate approximately 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of dust are being ejected from the comet’s surface each second, assuming the grains are dark and nearly the density of water-ice. The comet’s activity is expected to increase as it gets closer to Mars.

There is more from NASA here.