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Comets

Artist's impression of Rosetta's Philae probe approaching comet (Image: ESA/ATG medialab)

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft, which back in January awoke from 957 days hibernation on its way to rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, has now started its first instrument observations. Included in these instruments are three NASA science packages; MIRO, ALICE, and IES, all of which have started sending science data back to Earth.  Read More

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (center) against a star field (Photo: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for ...

On its way to rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P, for short), the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Rosetta spacecraft has spied its approaching target and the coma – the "halo" made primarily out of ice and dust that gives the comet its fuzzy appearance – that is developing around its nucleus. At more than 600 million km (373 million miles) from the Sun, the opportunity to observe the early onset of coma production at such distances promises to add much to our knowledge of the life-cycle of a comet as it wends its way around the solar system.  Read More

Artist's impression of Rosetta signalling Earth (Image: ESA)

European Space Agency scientists and engineers started breathing again today as the comet-chasing Rosetta space probe confirmed at 18:28 GMT that it had awoken from its 31-month hibernation. The news was announced via the @ESA_Rosetta twitter account, which tweeted: "Hello, world!"  Read More

Artist's concept of Rosetta deploying the Philae lander (Image: ESA)

Like nervous parents, scientists and engineers at ESA are pacing the floor of mission control as they await word of whether or not the Rosetta spacecraft has survived 31 months of hibernation. The unmanned comet chaser was scheduled to reactivate itself today at 10:00 GMT, but the time required to complete the operation and the distance a radio signal must travel back to Earth means that the space agency will not know until at least 17:30 GMT if the probe is operating again or has become deep space scrap.  Read More

Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way (Photo: ESA/ATG medialab; background image: ESO/S....

The Gaia mission to map a billion stars in the Milky Way has been delayed for about two months by the European Space Agency. Problems in X-band transponders used in other satellites have begun to appear, and the ESA has decided to replace those modules prior to launching. The likely blastoff date will be in late December of this year.  Read More

Artist's impression of Deep Impact (Image: NASA)

NASA has officially abandoned its attempts to regain contact with the Deep Impact comet probe, declaring the mission over. The space agency lost contact with the unmanned spacecraft in August and repeated attempts to reestablish the link have failed.  Read More

Deep Impact carried an impactor probe, which it launched at comet Tempel 1 in 2005 (Image:...

Launched in 2005, the Deep Impact unmanned spacecraft has had a long career making flybys of various comets, but NASA says that mission control lost communications with the probe on August 8 and has been unable to restore the link.  Read More

Time exposure of the 2007 Perseids (Image: NASA)

Early August always brings with it the promise of a spectacular show in the form of the Perseid meteor shower. This shower, which peaks August 11-13, is one of the most reliable and active meteor displays throughout the year. A new NASA study also shows that more Perseid meteors are fireballs (averaging over 100 per year) than in any other meteor shower.  Read More

Comet West (C/1975 V1) as seen on March 9, 1976 (Photo: NASA)

The first comet discovered this year, Comet C/2013 A1, is currently projected to pass within about 23,000 miles (37,000 km) of the surface of Mars late in 2014. While this event in itself promises spectacular views for astronomers, the uncertainty of the comet's orbit includes a significant chance of an impact on Mars. If this happens, the impact would be hundreds of times more powerful than the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs on Earth.  Read More

How brightly will Comet PANSTAARS shine? We don't have long to wait for the answer (Photo:...

Any comet you can see is a good one. Comet PANSTAARS is beginning its run for observers in the Southern Hemisphere, and will become visible to those in the Northern Hemisphere in the first few days of March. However, updated estimates suggest the peak brightness will be considerably less than was earlier predicted.  Read More

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