Tag Archives: Comet

Rosetta’s amazing comet ‘selfie’ from 16km altitude

14 Oct

16 km.

That’s how high Rosetta was when it snapped this picture. Just incredible.

Can’t wait for pictures from the landing! Less than a month away until that happens.

The Rosetta spacecraft captures a 'selfie' from 16 km above the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimengo. Two images with different exposure times were combined to bring out the faint details in this very high contrast situation. The comet's active ‘neck' region is clearly visible, with streams of dust and gas extending away from the surface. Rosetta's solar panel is visible in the foreground. The images were taken October 8 and released October 14, 2014. (CREDIT: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA)

The Rosetta spacecraft captures a ‘selfie’ from 16 km above the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimengo. Two images with different exposure times were combined to bring out the faint details in this very high contrast situation. The comet’s active ‘neck’ region is clearly visible, with streams of dust and gas extending away from the surface. Rosetta’s solar panel is visible in the foreground. The images were taken October 8 and released October 14, 2014. (CREDIT: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA)

Wrote this for Sun News Network today:

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft released a spectacular image Tuesday as it floated a mere 16 km above the surface of a comet.

Rosetta arrived at 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimengo in August after travelling more than a decade through deep space to catch-up with the comet, made of rock and ice.

The spacecraft is currently lowering its obit in preparation for November 12, when part of the probe will touchdown on the surface.

The landing will be the first time in history that a probe sets down on a comet.

Scientists hope to unlock the secrets of how the solar system – and the Earth – formed by studying the comet, which serves as a time capsule from 4.5 billion years ago.

Rosetta and Comet 67P currently sit about 478 million km from Earth, between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter.

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko over Toronto

21 Aug

A photo of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko superimposed over a photo of Los Angeles has recently gone viral.

The picture gives you an idea of perspective. Because a 4km long comet doesn’t SOUND all that big, and in astronomical terms, it is pretty tiny.

But compared to a city here on Earth, it’s pretty darn big.

So I thought it would be fun to compare the size of 67P/CG to my hometown, Toronto:

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in the sky over Toronto

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in the sky over Toronto

This is all in the news right now because the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe recently entered orbit around 67P/CG – entering the history books as the first time humanity has ever had a spacecraft orbit a comet.

And here’s my challenge: What would Comet 67P/CG look like if it were over your hometown?

Hat tip to the original tweet:


How to: homemade impact crater

8 Mar

This is a fun experiment to do at home, and it’s a pretty easy one as well. Good for fun yourself, and equally great for the kids or a classroom.

The video above gives a pretty good demo, and here’s the full explanation:

It’s great to do out in the yard where a bit of mess doesn’t matter, or at least do it on a hard surface that can be easily cleaned (lots of flour/cocoa dust gets thrown around!).

What you need:

– Medium/large container, at least 5-10cm deep (large Tupperware can work)
– bag of flour
– Sprinkles
– Cocoa powder
– Marble (or a small rock, like a piece of gravel)
– always wear eye protection when doing science experiments!

What you do:

– Put a layer of flour in the container, about 3-4cm deep (or more if you’d like)
– Put a thin layer of sprinkles on top of the flour
– Use a sieve or sifter to dust a thin layer of cocoa powder on top of that
– drop the marble into what you just made, and check out the impact crater

What you made should be reasonably flat, and each ‘batch’ can be used for several impacts (use your finger to gently flatten it back out if you need to).

What you see is a representation of how the different layers of soil (represented by the flour/sprinkles/cocoa powder) become energized and ejected by a meteorite impact.

The homemade crater impact

The homemade crater impact

You can try impacting your meteorite at different angles, from different heights, and at different velocities – though be careful throwing it too hard.

It’s worth noting though that no matter how hard you throw, we just can’t duplicate the amount of energy that’s released when an actual meteorite impacts something in space (whether we’re talking about it hitting Earth, the Moon, or Mars, etc).

Jesse and I also did this one on TV not too long ago, talking about the impact spotted on the Moon at the end of February:

Comet ISON lives!

29 Nov

UPDATE: While it appears that some small portion of ISON’ nucleus has survived, there is significant discussion if the surviving ‘piece’ is little more than dust. When concrete information is available as to the fate of ISON, I’ll provide an updated story.

This article, written by Harrison Ruess, was originally posted on Sun News Network.

Initial observations of Comet ISON’s close encounter with the Sun on Thursday suggested that it was vaporized during its solar fly-by. However new observations on Friday morning suggest that at least a portion of the comet’s nucleus – its rocky core – may have survived.

A hint that ISON may have survived appeared in an image from the joint NASA/European Space Agency observatory SOHO, which showed ISON appearing to brighten again.

If ISON had been destroyed as originally suspected, it’s unlikely that it would be seen getting brighter today.

Comet ISON passing the Sun, courtesy SOHO/ESA/NASA
Image sequence from SOHO, courtesy NASA/ESA

“After perihelion, a very faint smudge of dust appeared in the (SOHO) images along ISON’s orbit. This surprised us a little…We watched and waited for that dust trail to fade away. Except it didn’t,” wrote Karl Battams, astrophysicist and computational scientist based at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC.

“Now, in the latest (SOHO) images, we are seeing something beginning to gradually brighten up again,” he continues.

Battams’ working theory is that large chunks of ISON broke off in its journey past the sun, but part of its core remains intact.

As this is a very dynamic situation though, Battams cautions: “just be patient on this and the truth will unfold in time!”

If a large portion of ISON survives intact, it would be visible to the naked eye in Earth’s night sky in the coming weeks.

For the latest, you can check out NASA’s ISON page.