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

Tomorrow’s The Big Day For Philae!

Tomorrow the first ever soft landing on a comet is scheduled.  Touchdown should be Wednesday, at 3:35 a.m. Eastern time.

After a 10-year chase taking it billions of miles across the solar system, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft became the first probe to orbit a comet after arriving at its destination on August 6. The spacecraft recently took this image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In November, Rosetta will deploy a robotic lander to the comet's surface -- something that also has never been done before. The box on the right shows where the lander will touch down.

The Philae landing site covers about a third of a square mile.  Hopefully, the area is smooth and clear of obstructiongs.  However, because it is a comet, Philae will still be close to streams of dust and gas shooting off the surface.

After Philae detaches from Rosetta, it will be pulled down to the surface by the comet’s gravity.  Due to the distance from Earth, 300 million miles, the ESA control room will have to wait almost 30 minutes to find out whether the landing was successful.

The downward journey will about seven hours before Philae lands. To keep the lander from bouncing off the surface after touchdown, thrusters will fire while a harpoon and anchors in the lander’s legs will firmly attach Philae to the comet.  Very Moby Dick.

After that, the science begins and hopefully the little lander that could won’t be blown off into space by the comet’s ex-gassing.

– 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

Name That Landing Site!

The ESA is asking the public to name the landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko where the Philae robot probe will try to land on 12 November.

Any name (except individual’s names) can be entered. The rules call for a maximum 200-word justification to be submitted in support of a proposal. (I’m voting for Osiris).  Entries have to be received before Thursday GMT next week.

The judging panel will announce the winner on 3 November.  Full details can be found here.

– 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

Touchdown! Well Almost.

The ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft is about 100km (62 miles) from comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (thankfully reduced to Chury)

Chury was discovered by Klim Ivanovych Churyumov and Svetlana Ivanovna Gerasimenko on 11 September 1969 at the Alma-Ata Astrophysical Institute.  Like all comets, the finders names are used to tag the comet (I just wonder why I have never seen a Smith or Jones comet, or for that fact any popular last names).

In about six weeks from now, the spacecraft will be at its closest to the comet.

After scanning the surface, Rosetta will drop the “Philae” landing module that will hopefully ride the comet as it passes closest to the Sun and deliver never before gathered cometary data.

Hopefully, the landing site won’t be over a potential vent that blows the lander off the comet.

I am almost giddy with geek excitement.  Comets are so old they can tell us much about what went on in the early solar system.  BTW, when I discover my first comet or planet, which ever comes first, you have my permission to call it “Normie”.

– 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

Wake Up!

The ESA’s Rosetta comet probe has woken up to make its rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Rosetta’s mission will take 10 years to complete.

During its trip Rosetta passed by two asteroids, Lutetia and Steins.  The image above shows landslide that happened on Lutetia.

When Rosetta reaches the comet, it will deploy a 220-pound (100 kilogram) lander called Philae.

Once on the comet’s surface the pair of craft will accompany the comet on its journey through the inner solar system, observing at close range how the comet changes as the Sun’s heat transforms the cold surface to a boiling gaseous mass.

Rosetta is about 500 million miles (about 800 million km) from Earth near Jupiter’s orbit.  At that distance radio transmissions take 45 minutes to reach Earth and vice versa.  What is fascinating is that, due to gravity, the radio signals don’t travel in a straight line back and forth.

Once Rosetta’s on-board alarm clock went off it took seven hours to warm up its star trackers,  fire thrusters to slow its spin, turn on its transmitter and send a message back to Earth.  And with all the advances in science the drumming monkey clock was the best we could do (just kidding, atomic clocks were used, although the monkey clock would be fabulously hilarious).

There are a lot of firsts for Rosetta, but the images from the comet as it starts out-gassing should be spectacular.  I just hope Philae doesn’t land on one of the explosive vents that many comets have.  We will know later this year as the comet passes by the Sun.

– 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