Carnival of Space #468-469

Carnival of Space. Image by Jason Major.

Welcome, come in to the 468th and 469th Carnival of Space – we combined these two since it’s summer break for a lot of folks!  The Carnival is a community of space science and astronomy writers and bloggers, who submit their best work each week for your benefit. I’m Susie Murph, part of the team at Universe Today and CosmoQuest. So now, on to this week’s stories!

First up, we visit our friends at Planetaria to learn about how the Solar Probe Plus mission is moving closer to ‘touching the Sun’ in 2024.

Our next stop is the Chandra X-Ray Observatory site, where they have a fascinating article about how we’re discovering more about the magnetic dynamo inside our own sun by studying other stars. Read The Secrets of the Sun Revealed in the Stars here!

Next up, Kimberly Arcand over at ArkandWatske.com recently gave a TED talk – here’s the video – “How Do You Hold a Dead Star in Your Hand?”

Our friends over at Next Big Future have a story about ROSA, the Roll Up Solar Array, which will be sent up to the ISS for deployment in the spring of 2017.

Out next stop is at the Venus Transit, where Gadi Eidelheit has a great explanation of how to remove light pollution from your phots with “Blur and Subtract”, with links to tutorials.

Then, Gadi tell us the details about how he finally capture the ISS over the moon. You can read that article and see his video here.

We visit Space.About.Com next, for a collection of things we’ve learned about Pluto so far from the New Horizons mission. You can read this article by Carolyn Collins Peterson here: Pluto: What the First Reconnaissance Taught Us.

Next, they give us the details on how we can take a Space-themed vacation by giving us five great locations for space fans to visit.

Universe Today has lovely good bye to the Philae lander, by Nancy Atkinson. Read here about how the little lander from the Rosetta spacecraft, which sitting in a shaded region on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, will lose communication, and what we’ve learned from this historic mission.

That’s it for this week’s Carnival of Space! We’ll have more great stories next week, hosted by The Urban Astronomer!

And if you’re interested in looking back, here’s an archive to all the past Carnivals of Space. If you’ve got a space-related blog, you should really join the carnival. Just email an entry to carnivalofspace@gmail.com, and the next host will link to it. It will help get awareness out there about your writing, help you meet others in the space community – and community is what blogging is all about. And if you really want to help out, sign up to be a host. Send an email to the above address.

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Rosetta’s Philae Lander in Permanent Sleep

NAVCAM image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko acquired on Nov. 22, 2015.

ESA’s Philae lander, the first spacecraft to successfully soft-land on the surface of a comet and former piggyback partner to Rosetta, has not been in communication since July of 2015 and, with 67P now six months past perihelion and heading deeper out into the Solar System, it’s not likely it will ever be heard from again.

On Nov. 12, 2014, after over ten years traveling across the Solar System, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft successfully sent the Philae lander down onto the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, at the time located 316 million miles (508 million km) from Earth.

While Philae’s mission was deemed a success—80% of its primary science data were returned—its historic landing didn’t go without a few hitches. Philae did touch down on 67P almost exactly on target but its comet-gripping harpoons failed to fire, causing the washing machine-sized robot to bounce off the comet’s surface…twice.

Philae’s actual landing spot ended up being over 1,200 meters away on a slope in a heavily-shadowed location, limiting the amount of sunlight that could reach its solar panels. After a flurry of scientific activity following touchdown, the lander’s main battery was depleted and it entered a hibernation mode for several months.

Warming up in June 2015 as the comet neared the Sun, Philae was able to once again communicate with Rosetta in orbit, but only intermittently. Very little data from Philae was received and, since July 9, 2015, the lander has remained silent.

Repeated attempts to signal Philae via Rosetta have produced no results.

“The chances for Philae to contact our team at our lander control center are unfortunately getting close to zero,” said Stephan Ulamec, Philae project manager at the German Aerospace Center, DLR, in a Feb. 12 news release. “We are not sending commands any more and it would be very surprising if we were to receive a signal again.”

Mission engineers suspect Philae’s transmitters and receivers may have failed, and the lander could also have been shifted to an even darker, dustier location by increased activity on the comet during perihelion.

“The chances for Philae to contact our team at our lander control center are unfortunately getting close to zero.”
— Stephan Ulamec, Philae project manager, DLR

“We would be very surprised to hear from Philae again after so long, but we will keep Rosetta’s listening channel on until it is no longer possible due to power constraints as we move ever further from the Sun towards the end of the mission,” said Patrick Martin, ESA’s Rosetta mission manager.

Find out where Rosetta and 67P are right now.

In August 2016 Rosetta will be moved into highly elliptical orbits around comet 67P, bringing it very close to the surface where it can gather high-resolution images and data from close proximity before making a controlled “Grand Finale” impact on Sept. 30.

Even if we never hear from Philae again, it and Rosetta’s mission will always be remembered as an incredible success.

“The combined achievements of Rosetta and Philae, rendezvousing with and landing on a comet, are historic high points in space exploration,” said Martin.

Source: ESA

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