Shed A Little Light On Philae.

Alas, Philae may be dead.

The bouncing during landing put the probe into an area that was darker than was expected and the lander only had enough power for two days.  The probe stopped working at 7:36pm Eastern Time, right about the time it going to lose touch with Earth anyway.

Although the published pictures seem to show a lot of light on the comet’s surface, the image above is closer to the actual conditions on the comet.  It is a cold, dark, distant place.

Philae dies

But it was a good two days.  The probe worked around to clock to gather all the information possible and transmit it back to Rosetta and then to Earth while it batteries slowly drained.  While technically, Philae has gone into sleep mode, unless the position of the comet changes as it approaches the Sun, the lander will not get enough sunlight to recharge it’s batteries.

All hope is not lost, and Rosetta is still gathering data, but it must have been sad to watch the slow decay of 10 years of work right before your eyes.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +, or by email.

Norman

Duck And Cover For Martian Probes.

The comet Sliding Spring flew past Mars yesterday giving us our first view of a comet from a different planet.

Hubble Space Telescope picture of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as observed on March 11, 2014. At that time the comet was 353 million miles from Earth. When the glow of the coma is subtracted through image processing, which incorporates a smooth model of the coma's light distribution, Hubble resolves what appear to be two jets of dust coming off the nucleus in opposite directions. This means that only portions of the surface of the nucleus are presently active as they are warmed by sunlight, say researchers. Credit: NASA, ESA, and J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute)

The images weren’t available in time for this post, but the Hubble image above shows how it looked earlier in the year.

Siding Spring went past Mars at 125,000mph (56km per second) and missing the planet by 86681 miles (139,500 km).  Earlier projections didn’t have enough data, so there was a possibility that the comet would actually hit Mars.

There are currently eight active spacecraft operating either on the surface, Opportunity and Curiosity, and . The orbiting Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, Mars Orbiter Mission and the newly arrive Indian MRO spacecraft.

http://space.jpl.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/wspace?tbody=499&vbody=1001&month=10&day=19&year=2014&hour=00&minute=00&rfov=90&fovmul=-1&bfov=30&porbs=1&showsc=1&showac=1

The simulated image above from the JPL/NASA simulator at http://space.jpl.nasa.gov/ show all the orbiters hiding behind the planet.  Due to the close flyby, the comet is going to leave a lot of debris as it passes by.  Any dust or debris traveling at that speed can severely damage these craft, so everyone moved their craft to the far side of the planet to wait for the all clear.

Comet debris can last for a very long time so this is something that may become happen every Martian year.  We see the residue of comets regularly in the form of meteor showers.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Feel The Burn!

ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has completed its longest burn to chase down comet 67P/C-G Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The almost eight hours of maneuvring slowed the spacecraft to the same speed as the comet.

 

It was intended to take out a big chunk (almost 300m/s) of the velocity Rosetta had (755m/s) with respect to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Orbits

Now the craft will take a rather odd path to get to its final destination so that it can land before the comet starts warming up and really starts ejecting material due to interactions with the Sun and other bodies in the solar system.

Once the craft is close enough the Philae lander will (hopefully) touch down on the surface of comet just like the illustration from the ESA above.

In a dramatic moment (insert DUN DUN DUHHHH! music here) the burn caused some concern because of a leak in the pressure and  propellant tank system.  The leak wouln’t have blown the spacecraft up, but it might have made the burn rate uneven resulting in the spacecraft missing the target.

This is good news for the Discovery Channel when they make their documentary about this, the will be able to add the expected drama to make science more enjoyable.  After all, it can’t always be shark week.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

ISON Postmortem

After the flyby, death, apparent rebirth and finality of comet ISON scientist are declaring victory.

Due to the hype and the composition of ISON, it was one of the most widely viewed comets to pass through the solar system.  Telescopes and other instruments were trained on ISON to gather as much data as possible.

Even extra-terrestrial observations from the rovers and orbiters on and around Mars collected data on this first time visitor.  All the data collected is now being studied intently to help glean some insights to the formation of our solar system.

Some reports have already discussed the composition and make-up of ISON from spectrographic readings.  Thanks to Tom Field for the image above (anyone with a DSLR camera can take spectra like this using Tom’s software at www.rspec-astro.com).

Other scientists presented results from the comet’s last days at the 2013 Fall American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, Calif.  They described how ISON lost mass before reaching perihelion and most likely broke up during its closest approach, as well as theorizing what this means for determining ISON’s composition.  Other researchers are analyzing the comet’s tail and comparing that with other comets to determine all the facts possible.

Although ISON didn’t live up to the hype, the comets plunge to its death around the Sun has still provided cometologists with plenty of data for years to come.  So a final farewell to comet ISON, we hardly knew you.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Pffft….Poof!

That is the sound I imagined as I was watching the live NASA event for the late comet ISON.  As I expected, the journey around the Sun destroyed most of ISON.

Unfortunately, not even the STEREO satellites got any good data of what actually happened.  At least that scientific data would have made the “comet of the century” worth more than the hype.

Once again comet ISON raises our hopes and then dashes then... perhaps for the final time. It has clearly started to fade dramatically, and this does not bode well for survival.  Image and caption via ESA/NASA, annotations by Karl Battams.

I have taken a lot of flack for predicting that the comet would either break up or be destroyed on its one and only journey through the solar system.  It appears that there may be some remnants of the comet left, but most of it is gone.

I wasn’t making a prediction out of spite for the hype, the math wasn’t adding up for me.  ISON’s revised orbit kept putting it closer and closer to the Sun.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/ef/Earth-Moon.png/800px-Earth-Moon.png

The final trajectory was about 3 lunar distances (less than 750,000 miles, the image above is to scale) from the largest, hottest, most active mass in the solar system.  Also, the composition of ISON was lighter and fluffier than some of the more solid core comets found.  As most of you may have had occasion to experience.  Putting something soft and fluffy into a microwave, such as a marshmallow, results in a spectacular mess.  That’s what essentially happened to ISON.

NASA currently believes that as Comet ISON plunged towards to the sun, it began to fall apart. Then, as ISON plunged through the corona (the plasma that surrounds the Sun), it continued to fall apart and vaporize, and lost its coma and tail completely just like Lovejoy did in 2011.  What emerged from the sun was a small nucleus, that has resumed emitting dust and gas for at least the time being.

Well, I think it is time to stick a fork in comet ISON, ‘cuse I think its done.  Whatever is left of ISON certainly isn’t going to win it the crown of “comet of the century.”

Cover image Pfffft by Phoenixthehedgehog16 www.deviantart.com

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Today’s The Day…

For turkey and all the fix’uns.  If your into that sort of thing.

It is also the big reveal day for comet ISON.  Today we see if the Sun baked the little comet to a cosmic crispy critter, or if it survives to speed out of the Solar system.

Luckily for me, I will be at my observatory for the holiday weekend trying to once again image the “comet of the century.”  I’ll post what I can get.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman