The Rosetta spacecraft is about to do something no spacecraft has ever done before: orbit a comet and land on its surface
A spacecraft from Earth is about to do something no spacecraft has ever done before: orbit a comet and land on its surface.
Right now, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe is hurtling toward Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The spacecraft’s mission is to study the comet at close-range as it transforms from a quiet nugget of ice and rock, frozen solid by years spent in deep space, to a sun-warmed dynamo spewing jets of gas and dust into a magnificently evolving tail.
News flash: The metamorphosis has begun.
"Comet 67P is coming alive," says Claudia Alexander, project scientist for the U.S. Rosetta Project at JPL. "And it is even more active than I expected."
Launched in 2004, Rosetta has spent the past few years in hibernation as it chased the comet across the Solar System. In January of 2014, with its destination in sight, Rosetta woke up and turned on its cameras. At first, the comet looked like a dimensionless pinprick, inactive except for its quiet motion through space. Then, on May 4th a bright cloud appeared around the nucleus. (Read more)
The spinning vortex of Saturn’s north polar storm resembles a deep red rose of giant proportions surrounded by green foliage in this false-color image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Measurements have sized the eye at a staggering 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) across with cloud speeds as fast as 330 miles per hour (150 meters per second).
This image is among the first sunlit views of Saturn’s north pole captured by Cassini’s imaging cameras. When the spacecraft arrived in the Saturnian system in 2004, it was northern winter and the north pole was in darkness. Saturn’s north pole was last imaged under sunlight by NASA’s Voyager 2 in 1981; however, the observation geometry did not allow for detailed views of the poles. Consequently, it is not known how long this newly discovered north-polar hurricane has been active.
SN 1006 was a supernova, widely seen on Earth beginning in the year 1006; Earth was about 7,200 light years away from the supernova. It was the brightest apparent magnitude stellar event in recorded history, reaching an estimated −7.5 visual magnitude. First appearing in the constellation of Lupus between April 30 and May 1 of that year, this “guest star” was described by observers in China, Egypt, Iraq, Japan, Switzerland, and North America.