In 2013, the Kepler telescope had to stop planet hunting due to the failure of two reaction wheels. But that doesn’t mean the telescope is completely out of commission. In fact, using a new technique that takes advantage of the solar wind, the Kepler telescope just discovered its first planet, a planet that could be similar to Earth but over twice the size.
Finding water on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comes as no surprise. Comets have been known to carry large patches of ice on them. What does come as a surprise, however, is the general makeup of this water. It is a finding that turns previously held beliefs on their head.
Every December the Geminid meteor shower brings out sky watchers to admire the spectacle which can produce up to 120 sightings per hour. Named because it appears to originate from the Gemini constellation, the Geminid meteor shower show runs from Dec. 7 through the 17th, peaking between the 13th through the 14th. Though the moonlight will block out most of the meteor sightings, you can still catch more of the prominent ones that appear to race across the night sky.
Two years ago, NASA’s Curiosity rover landed in an area called the Gale Crater. They choose this location because it was deemed to be the best area to have once been able to support microbial life. In a teleconference this afternoon, NASA has announced that new scientific evidence supports the long-standing hypothesis that Gale Crater once held a large body of water, and quite possibly for millions of years.
Due to technical issues, the launch of NASA’s Orion Spacecraft has been postponed until Friday, December 5.
Join us tomorrow in the planetarium to learn more about Orion, create your own spacecraft, and watch video of Orion’s liftoff and re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere before each planetarium program.
Orion is NASA’s version of a next generation spacecraft that is designed to eventually take astronauts to asteroids, Mars, and beyond!
NASA’s newest spacecraft, Orion, will be launching into space for the first time this Thursday, December 4th, on a flight that will take it further than any spacecraft built to carry humans has gone in more than 40 years and through temperatures twice as hot as molten lava to put its critical systems to the test.
One more first for the Rosetta mission… sounds of Philae landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The SESAME-CASSE instrument sensors on the feet of the Philae lander recorded the sound at the moment of contact with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Philae on surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Listening to a comet with instruments on Rosetta:
RPC, Rosetta’s Plasma Consortium, consists of five instruments on the Rosetta orbiter that provide a wide variety of complementary information about the plasma environment surrounding Comet 67P/C-G. (Reminder: Plasma is the fourth state of matter, an electrically conductive gas that can carry magnetic fields and electrical currents.)
Artist’s impression of the ‘singing comet’ 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam
The instruments are designed to study a number of phenomena, including: the interaction of 67P/C-G with the solar wind, a continuous stream of plasma emitted by the Sun; changes of activity on the comet; the structure and dynamics of the comet’s tenuous plasma ‘atmosphere’, known as the coma; and the physical properties of the cometary nucleus and surface.
But one observation has taken the RPC scientists somewhat by surprise. The comet seems to be emitting a ‘song’ in the form of oscillations in the magnetic field in the comet’s environment. It is being sung at 40-50 millihertz, far below human hearing, which typically picks up sound between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. To make the music audible to the human ear, the frequencies have been increased by a factor of about 10,000.
The music was heard clearly by the magnetometer experiment (RPC-Mag) for the first time in August, when Rosetta drew to within 100 km of 67P/C-G. The scientists think it must be produced in some way by the activity of the comet, as it releases neutral particles into space where they become electrically charged due to a process called ionisation. But the precise physical mechanism behind the oscillations remains a mystery.
“This is exciting because it is completely new to us. We did not expect this and we are still working to understand the physics of what is happening,” says Karl-Heinz.
The sonification of the RPC-Mag data was compiled by German composer Manuel Senfft (www.tagirijus.de).
Rossetta Blog: Claudia
The planet Uranus is usually relatively calm when compared to its other companion gas giants in our solar system. Up until recently if you aimed a telescope at the distant planet you would have just observed a bland and hazy blue-green looking body without a whole lot going on. However, lately several extremely bright and large storms have been erupting around the northern hemisphere, and 7 years later than its closest approach to the Sun when astronomers would expect any activity to occur. Some of theses features are now even bright enough to be visible to amateur astronomers with a telescope, and this unusual activity has now sparked great interest in the unusual planet. It is now an active topic of research to understand these new phenomena since these wild storms were first discovered by astronomer, Dr. Imke de Pater, of the University of California, Berkeley.
Read more about it here:
European Space Agency – ESA
This unusual view takes a side-on look down the smaller lobe of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and onto the smoother terrain of the ‘neck’ region. In the background, cliffs of the comet’s large lobe rise from the shadows, adding to the dramatic feel to this image.
This single-frame NAVCAM image measures 1024 x 1024 pixels. It was captured from a distance of 9.8 km from the centre of the comet (7.8 km from the surface) at 22:04 GMT on 23 October 2014. At this distance, the image resolution is 83.5 cm/pixel and the size of the image is 855 x 855 m.
European Space Agency – ESA