Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Well done to the Rosetta team

The landing of the Philae lander on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is one of the most spectacular space events ever.  Such an incredible work of engineering at the highest levels of difficulty.  Well done to ALL the team.  Here's hoping that the harpoon not firing will not leave Philae vulnerable to a blast of comet gases forcing the craft away from the surface.  There are so many very clever scientists in the team that an answer will be found.

Why so important?

The comet has the chemical archive of our Solar System's history within it. Questions could be answered about whether components for life came originally from comets and whether our oceans were created from the water within millions of comets that have flown into the earth's atmosphere over billions of years.  We are about to find out the answers.

My favourite comet image:-

  • Title NAVCAM top 10 at 10 km – 5

    • Released 11/11/2014 8:00 am
    • Copyright ESA/Rosetta/ NavCam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
    • Description
      In this scene from the large lobe of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, sets of long, parallel grooves and ridges in the foreground draw the eye up to a block of layered material (appearing as vertically stacked layers in this orientation) in the centre of the frame. This ridge traces up to a peak in the distance, through a cascade of boulders. To the left, flat-topped steps contrast against a ‘pinnacle’ seen against the horizon. To the right, a patch of brighter material lies crumbled at the base of a steep wall – perhaps signalling material that has been freshly exposed.
      In a different orientation, the ‘peak’ actually appears as a flat ridge that slopes down onto a flat plateau, showing the importance of viewing features from different angles in order to understand them fully.
      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 (8.8 km from the surface) at 22:18 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. 
      This work is licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO) licence.  The user is allowed to reproduce, distribute, adapt, translate and publicly perform this publication, without explicit permission, provided that the content is accompanied by an acknowledgement that the source is credited as 'European Space Agency - ESA', a direct link to the licence text is provided and that it is clearly indicated if changes were made to the original content. Adaptation/translation/derivatives must be distributed under the same licence terms as this publication. To view a copy of this license, please visit

    Monday, 10 November 2014

    Astronomy at the National Memorial Arboretum

    We visited the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas this week - to pay our respects to the fallen and to honour the service men and women who stood for the freedom that we enjoy today.  We were surprised to see that the main Armed Forces Memorial incorporated a special astronomical feature.  As the time of the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month arrives, a shaft of light will pass through the memorial wall and shine on to the central memorial wreath. How clever. What a stunning memorial - one of many at Alrewas.