Two Views of a Comet


This image of “Rosetta’s Comet” by Paolo Bacci from San Marcello Pistoiese gives us a nice perspective on  Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  It’s almost hard to believe it is the same comet as we see below from Rosetta’s NAVCAM.



Credits: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
Hat tip: Epic Cosmos

Edgar Mitchell

Sad news. Astronaut Edgar Mitchell (USN Capt. Ret.), who became the sixth man to walk on the moon during the Apollo 14 mission to the highlands of Fra Mauro, died on Feb. 4 in West Palm Beach, Florida at the age of 85. Mitchell’s death occurred on the eve of the 45th anniversary of his landing on the moon aboard the lunar module Antares with Apollo 14. Mitchell spent 33 hours on the lunar surface.


2016 CG18 Coming Tomorrow


2016 CG18 is a newly discovered asteroid and it will pass very close to us tomorrow (06 Feb), just 0.39 Lunar Distance or 149,916 km / 93,153 miles away.  The closest point will occur at 13:29 UTC.

149,000 to 150,000 km is really close in cosmological terms fortunately there isn’t any worries about 2016 CG18 getting any closer for a while.  Orbital calculations shown at ESA’s  NEODys-2 site show this is the closest approach until at least the year 2100.

The most remarkable thing about the asteroid is that it is only 7 meters across and the Catalina Sky Survey was able to find it on 03 February — that’s really good!

Image: JPL / NASA hat tip to Ron Baalke

UPDATE:  Just learned of another asteroid called 2015 NJ3, this is termed as a “Potentially Hazardous Asteroid”, NOT that is is a danger anytime soon that we know of but one that bears watching.  Preliminary data is just out, more to come.

Jupiter Here We Come


We’ve been patiently waiting for the Juno spacecraft to arrive at Jupiter and finally: Here we go!

Click NASA’s infographic above for a larger (more readable version),

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

From NASA:
NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft successfully executed a maneuver to adjust its flight path today, Feb. 3. The maneuver refined the spacecraft’s trajectory, helping set the stage for Juno’s arrival at the solar system’s largest planetary inhabitant five months and a day from now.

“This is the first of two trajectory adjustments that fine tune Juno’s orbit around the sun, perfecting our rendezvous with Jupiter on July 4th at 8:18 p.m. PDT [11:18 p.m. EDT],” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

The maneuver began at 10:38 a.m. PST (1:38 p.m. EST). The Juno spacecraft’s thrusters fired for 35 minutes, consumed about 1.2 pounds (.56 kilograms) of fuel, and changed the spacecraft’s speed by 1 foot (0.31 meters), per second. At the time of the maneuver, Juno was about 51 million miles (82 million kilometers) from Jupiter and approximately 425 million miles (684 million kilometers) from Earth. The next trajectory correction maneuver is scheduled for May 31.

Juno was launched on Aug. 5, 2011. The spacecraft will orbit the Jovian world 33 times, skimming to within 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) above the planet’s cloud tops every 14 days. During the flybys, Juno will probe beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and study its aurorae to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Juno’s name comes from Greek and Roman mythology. The god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, and his wife — the goddess Juno — was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter’s true nature.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

Saturn in Methane


When viewed through a methane filter the banding on Saturn really stands out.

The Cassini caption:
The soft, bright-and-dark bands displayed by Saturn in this view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft are the signature of methane in the planet’s atmosphere.

This image was taken in wavelengths of light that are absorbed by methane on Saturn. Dark areas are regions where light travels deeper into the atmosphere (passing through more methane) before reflecting and scattering off of clouds and then heading back out of the atmosphere. In such images, the deeper the light goes, the more of it gets absorbed by methane, and the darker that part of Saturn appears.

The moon Dione (698 miles or 1,123 kilometers across) hangs below the rings at right. Shadows of the rings are also visible here, cast onto the planet’s southern hemisphere, in an inverse view compared to early in Cassini’s mission at Saturn (see PIA08168).

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 0.3 degrees below the ringplane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Sept. 6, 2015, using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 728 nanometers.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 819,000 miles (1.32 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 49 miles (79 kilometers) per pixel. Dione has been brightened by a factor of two to enhance its visibility.