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Astronomy & Space

Asteroid with shortest yr noticed – Astronomy Now

July 18, 2019 • By

Astronomers have noticed an uncommon asteroid with the shortest “year” identified for any asteroid. The rocky physique, dubbed 2019 LF6, is a couple of kilometre in dimension and circles the Solar roughly each 151 days. In its orbit, the asteroid swings out past Venus and, at instances, comes nearer in than Mercury, which circles the Solar each 88 days. 2019 LF6 is one in all solely 20 identified “Atira” asteroids, whose orbits fall fully inside Earth’s.

The orbit of asteroid 2019 LF6 (white), found by ZTF, falls fully inside the orbit of Earth (blue). Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

“You don’t find kilometre-size asteroids very often these days,” says Quanzhi Ye, a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech who found 2019 LF6 and works with Tom Prince, the Ira S. Bowen Professor of Physics at Caltech and a senior analysis scientist at JPL, and George Helou, the chief director of IPAC, an astronomy middle at Caltech.

“Thirty years ago, people started organising methodical asteroid searches, finding larger objects first, but now that most of them have been found, the bigger ones are rare birds,” he says. “LF6 is very unusual both in orbit and in size—its unique orbit explains why such a large asteroid eluded several decades of careful searches.”

2019 LF6 was found through the Zwicky Transient Facility, or ZTF, a state-of-the-art digital camera on the Palomar Observatory that scans the skies each night time for transient objects, similar to exploding and flashing stars and shifting asteroids. As a result of ZTF scans the sky so quickly, it’s well-suited for locating Atira asteroids, which have brief observing home windows.

“We only have about 20 to 30 minutes before sunrise or after sunset to find these asteroids,” says Ye.

To search out the Atira asteroids, the ZTF group has been finishing up a devoted observing marketing campaign, named Twilight after the time of day greatest suited to discovering the objects. Twilight was developed by Ye and Wing-Huen Ip of the Nationwide Central College in Taiwan. To this point, the programme has found one different Atira asteroid, named 2019 AQ3. Earlier than 2019 LF6 got here alongside, 2019 AQ3 had the shortest identified yr of any asteroid, orbiting the solar roughly each 165 days.

“Both of the large Atira asteroids that were found by ZTF orbit well outside the plane of the Solar System,” says Prince. “This suggests that sometime in the past they were flung out of the plane of the Solar System because they came too close to Venus or Mercury,” says Prince.

Asteroid 2019 LF6 is seen right here touring throughout the sky in photos captured by ZTF on 10 June. The film has been sped-up: the precise time elapsed is 13 minutes. Credit score: ZTF/Caltech Optical Observatories

Along with the 2 Atira objects, ZTF has up to now discovered round 100 near-Earth asteroids and about 2,000 asteroids orbiting within the Principal Belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Ye says he hopes the Twilight programme will result in extra Atira discoveries, and he appears ahead to the attainable choice by NASA of the Close to-Earth Object Digital camera (NEOCam) mission, a proposed spacecraft designed to search for asteroids nearer to the Solar than earlier surveys. NEOCam would decide up the infrared, or warmth, signatures of asteroids. (Ye works at IPAC, which might course of and archive information for the NEOCam mission, however just isn’t a part of that group.)

“Because Atira asteroids are closer to the Sun and warmer than other asteroids, they are brighter in the infrared,” says Helou.”NEOCam has the double benefit of its location in house and its infrared functionality to search out these asteroids extra simply than telescopes working at seen wavelengths from the bottom.”

The Worldwide Astronomical Union Minor Planet Heart itemizing for 2019 LF6 is at https://minorplanetcenter.net/mpec/K19/K19M45.html.

ZTF is funded by the Nationwide Science Basis and a global collaboration of companions. Extra help comes from the Heising-Simons Basis, and Caltech itself. ZTF information are processed and archived by IPAC. NASA helps ZTF’s seek for near-Earth objects by the Close to-Earth Object Observations programme.


Astronomy & Space

See the Worldwide House Station above the eclipsed Moon on 16 July – Astronomy Now

July 16, 2019 • By
Observers within the British Isles with a transparent sky round civil nightfall tonight ought to discover a location providing an unobstructed view of the horizon from southeast via south. Not solely will you see the rising partially eclipsed Moon (most eclipse is shortly earlier than 10:31pm), planets Saturn and Jupiter, however the Worldwide House Station (ISS) gliding by from 10:06–10:09pm, as depicted on this looping animation. The ISS makes its subsequent move, considerably increased within the sky, at 11:44pm (all instances BST). Be aware that the Moon’s obvious dimension is enlarged for readability. AN animation by Ade Ashford.

On today fifty years in the past, Apollo 11 blasted off from Kennedy House Centre at 13:32 UTC on its historic eight-day journey to place males on the Moon and safely return them to Earth.

If you happen to want to take pleasure in a some lunar gazing to commemorate this momentous anniversary, clear UK skies round civil nightfall allow you to see not solely {a partially} eclipsed Moon low within the southeast with Saturn close by, however brighter planetary sibling Jupiter within the south and, for those who’re significantly lucky, the Worldwide House Station gliding by from 10:06–10:09pm BST!

Whereas most celestial objects require a telescope or binocular to see clearly, the intense and unmistakable Worldwide House Station makes common visits to the evening sky and could also be loved with nothing greater than the bare eye, whether or not you reside within the nation or the center of a light-polluted metropolis. The ISS will probably be nicely seen from the British Isles over the subsequent week, showing like a slowly transferring brilliant star crossing the sky in an arc from west to east, a couple of instances every evening from the UK.

Concerning the ISS
Development of the ISS started with the launch of the primary module, Zarya, in November 1998. Since then, greater than 115 constructional area flights utilizing 5 several types of launch automobiles have led to the 73 x 109 x 20 metre, 400-tonne construction that we see right now. The orbital outpost has accomplished greater than 117,000 orbits since its launch and has been constantly occupied since November 2000.

The International Space Station on 23 May 2010 as seen from the departing Space Shuttle Atlantis during STS-132. Image credit: NASA/Crew of STS-132/Wikimedia Commons.
The Worldwide House Station on 23 Could 2010 as seen from the departing House Shuttle Atlantis throughout STS-132. Picture credit score: NASA/Crew of STS-132/Wikimedia Commons.

The Worldwide House Station orbits the Earth each 92 minutes at an altitude between 205 and 255 miles, travelling at a median velocity in extra of 17,000 miles per hour (7.5 kilometres per second). The ISS orbits our planet with an inclination to the equator of 51.6 levels, which means that it could seem overhead in any respect latitudes between 51.6° N and 51.6° S. So far as the UK is worried, the ISS will be seen as excessive because the zenith in any respect areas south of a line drawn between Swansea and London, showing decrease within the sky for all locations north of this line.

Utilizing Astronomy Now’s Almanac to make ISS viewing predictions
A lot of you could have used our on-line Almanac to acquire details about lunar phases, or the rising and setting of the Solar, Moon and planets for wherever you might stay, however the Almanac also can inform you when and the place to see the Worldwide House Station.

Within the Almanac, choose the closest metropolis to your location from the Nation and Metropolis pull-down menus earlier than guaranteeing that the field beside Add ISS passes? has a tick in it and — simply as importantly — the Daylight Financial savings Time? field, if relevant to your time and site. The desk beneath the month’s Moon section knowledge then exhibits present nighttime passes of the Worldwide House Station over your chosen location through the subsequent 5 days, if any.

Here’s a current instance computed for Cardiff:For the given Date in 12 months/month/day format, Native Time is the moment the ISS first turns into seen and Period signifies the size of the sighting in minutes. On the given Native Time, look within the path indicated by Strategy and, climate allowing, it’s best to see the ISS as a slowly transferring, brilliant “star”. Max. elevation is how excessive the Station will get above your horizon (90° is overhead, whereas 20° is concerning the span of an outstretched hand at arm’s size) and Departure signifies the place the ISS will probably be when it vanishes from sight. Generally an look or disappearance happens nicely up within the sky when the Station emerges into daylight or slips into Earth’s shadow, respectively.

Within the instance above, as seen from the Welsh capital on the morning of Wednesday, 17 July, the ISS first seems 16° (a span and a half of a fist at arm’s size) above the western (W) horizon at 1:18am BST in a viewing window lasting six minutes. It attains a peak altitude of 69° above the east-northeast (ENE) horizon earlier than fading into the Earth’s shadow 10° above the jap (E) horizon at 1:24am BST.

Be aware: the precise instances of occasions sooner or later will change because the orbit of the ISS varies over time; predictions made on the day are extra correct.

Viewing the ISS via a telescope?

The International Space Station photographed through a telescope by astrophotographer Ralf Vandebergh of the Netherlands. "The image shows not only the ISS with very special lighting angle but also it shows activity around the ISS which is often the case. You see the Japanese Cargo Ship HTV-1 in its demonstration flight shortly before docking and just a few hundred metres below the ISS," he said. Image credit: Ralf Vandebergh / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0.
The Worldwide House Station photographed via a telescope by astrophotographer Ralf Vandebergh of the Netherlands. “The image shows not only the ISS with very special lighting angle but also it shows activity around the ISS which is often the case. You see the Japanese Cargo Ship HTV-1 in its demonstration flight shortly before docking and just a few hundred metres below the ISS,” he mentioned. Picture credit score: Ralf Vandebergh / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0.

Given the Worldwide House Station’s bodily dimension, proximity, and brightness (at its greatest it could rival Venus), one would possibly suppose that it might be high quality object to see via a telescope. Certainly, when passing overhead at a beneficial orientation, it could exceed an arcminute in angular dimension — about the identical as Venus near inferior conjunction.

In observe, making an attempt to trace the ISS with an undriven telescope akin to a Dobsonian feels reasonably like clay pigeon taking pictures, as one makes an attempt to anticipate the place it will likely be within the finder earlier than catching a glimpse because it flashes via the sector a high-power eyepiece in a fraction of a second. Nonetheless, observe makes good, and if a rigorously targeted astrovideo digicam is used rather than an eyepiece, some frames on playback can include tantalising pictures.

Observers with computerised telescope mounts that may be pushed by exterior software program designed to trace satellites a have a a lot larger likelihood of success. Astrophotographers Thierry Legault and Ralf Vandebergh amongst many others have succeeded in capturing beautiful footage of the ISS exhibiting high quality structural element which might be an inspiration to imagers the world over.

But the serene great thing about the Worldwide House Station gliding silently overhead wants nothing greater than the bare eye to understand. Moreover, for those who do make a sighting over the subsequent few nights, ponder the six-person crew of Expedition 60 presently aboard – significantly on this epic anniversary of Apollo 11’s Moon mission.


Astronomy & Space

India seeks to hitch unique firm with formidable moon mission – Astronomy Now

July 14, 2019 • By
Artist’s illustration of the Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft in lunar orbit. The mission’s touchdown craft — which carries the rover — is seen at high, and the orbiter phase is at backside. Credit score: ISRO

India’s formidable $142 million Chandrayaan 2 moon mission, comprising a orbiter, lander and rover, is ready for liftoff Sunday to start an almost two-month transit culminating in a landing close to the lunar south pole in September.

The robotic science mission is awaiting liftoff aboard India’s Geosynchronous Satellite tv for pc Launch Car Mk.3, or GSLV Mk.3, rocket at 2121 GMT (5:21 p.m. EDT) Sunday from a spaceport on the Indian east coast.

If every little thing goes in response to plan, the three-in-one spacecraft will arrive in orbit across the moon round Aug. 5, then detach the touchdown craft round Sept. 2 or Three to start decreasing its altitude in preparation for a remaining descent to the lunar floor as quickly as Sept. 6.

“We are landing at a place where nobody else has gone,” mentioned Ok. Sivan, chairman of the Indian House Analysis Group.

Indian scientists are focusing on touchdown of the Chandrayaan 2 lander at an unexplored website situated on the close to aspect of the moon at 70.9 levels south latitude, nearer to the moon’s south pole than any earlier mission. The touchdown module is called Vikram for Vikram Sarabhai, the daddy of India’s area program, and can deploy the Pragyan rover, named for the Sanskrit phrase for “wisdom.”

The stationary lander and rover are designed to final 14 days — equal to half of a lunar day — till the solar units on the touchdown website, robbing the automobiles {of electrical} energy as temperatures plummet to close minus 300 levels Fahrenheit (minus 183 levels Celsius).

If the touchdown is profitable, India will grow to be the fourth nation to perform a managed comfortable landing on the moon, following landings by the Soviet Union, the USA and China.

Clive Neal, a lunar scientist on the College of Notre Dame, mentioned India’s area program “making great strides” after inserting spacecraft into orbit across the moon and Mars in 2008 and 2013, respectively.

Chandrayaan 2 is a follow-up to India’s Chandrayaan 1 lunar orbiter, which made historical past by detecting water-bearing molecules on the moon’s poles, with the best concentrations inside permanently-shadowed craters on the south pole.

“This proof of capability, the Chandryaaan 2 mission with the lander and the rover, is very ambitious,” Neal mentioned in an interview with Spaceflight Now.

And Chandrayaan 2’s price range is a fraction of the event price range for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which price greater than $500 million to construct and launch in 2009.

“They’ve got a nice landing site picked out,” Neal mentioned. “It looks pretty benign in terms of small craters and boulders. This would be a pathfinder for future landings in more challenging environments, and because it’s a new place (to explore) on the moon, there will be good science that comes out of it.”

Floor crews increase the Chandrayaan 2 mission’s lunar lander (left) on high of the orbiter phase (proper) throughout launch preparations final month. One half of the GSLV Mk.3’s payload fairing is seen within the background. Credit score: ISRO

China is the latest nation to hitch the elite group of countries with profitable moon touchdown missions. China’s Chang’e Three mission landed on the close to aspect of the moon in 2013, and Chang’e Four made the primary comfortable touchdown on the far aspect of the moon in January.

Chang’e 4’s lander and rover are nonetheless working, and if profitable, the arrival of Chandrayaan 2 in September may mark the primary time because the 1970s that two spacecraft have operated on the moon’s floor on the similar time.

“This is very exciting, and I wish them well,” Neal mentioned. “They’ve got a wealth of experiments that they’re carrying on the orbiter, the lander and the rover. It’s going to tell us some interesting things about the lunar surface at a location we haven’t been to.”

ISRO says the orbiter’s mission will final not less than a 12 months, taking high-resolution photos and scanning the lunar floor with radar and spectral imagers to hunt for indicators of water ice.

Officers initially designed the Chandrayaan 2 mission as a joint endeavor with Russia, which was to offer the touchdown module to fly to the moon with an Indian-made orbiter and rover. However Russia dropped out of the venture after the failure of the Phobos-Grunt Mars probe in 2011, prompting the Indian authorities to make Chandrayaan 2 an all-Indian mission.

“This mission is not only ISRO’s mission,” Sivan mentioned in a press briefing final month. “It is a mission of the entire country.”

Chandrayaan 2 will experience into area on high of a GSLV Mk.Three rocket, India’s strongest launcher, from the Satish Dhawan House Heart on Sriharikota Island, situated on the coast of the Bay of Bengal in southeastern India.

Making its third full-up flight, the 142-foot-tall (43.4-meter) launch automobile will take off at 2:51 a.m. Indian Customary Time on Monday with some 2.2 million kilos of thrust from two solid-fueled boosters.

The 142-foot-tall (43.4-meter) GSLV Mk.Three rocket rolls out of its meeting constructing with the Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft on-board. Credit score: ISRO

An air-lit core stage with two hydrazine-fueled Vikas engines and an higher stage with a hydrogen-fueled engine will ship the Chandrayaan 2 mission into area. Separation of the Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft is scheduled at T+plus 16 minutes, 13 seconds.

Indian area program managers final 12 months moved the Chandrayaan 2 launch from the much less succesful GSLV Mk.2 rocket to the GSLV Mk.Three after the spacecraft exceeded its authentic weight throughout growth.

The orbiter, lander and rover collectively will weigh round 8,500 kilos — about 3,850 kilograms — on the time of launch. About one-third of that weight is propellant, in response to Sivan.

The GSLV Mk.Three will haul the Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft into an elliptical switch orbit round Earth, with a low altitude of 105 miles (170 kilometers) and a most distance from Earth of 24,270 miles (39,059 kilometers).

After separation from the GSLV Mk.Three launcher, Chandrayaan 2’s orbiter will prolong a power-generating photo voltaic array wing and kit up for a collection of orbit-raising burns earlier than breaking freed from the grip of Earth’s gravity and touring to the moon.

5 engine burns over 16 days will nudge Chandrayaan 2’s orbit increased earlier than a trans-lunar injection maneuver on the finish of July sends the spacecraft on a five-day arcing trajectory to intercept the moon.

One other vital engine burn round Aug. 5 will place the Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft in an oval-shaped orbit across the moon — ranging between 93 miles (150 kilometers) and about 11,200 miles (18,000 kilometers) in altitude — adopted by extra thruster firings to steer the probe right into a round 62-mile-high (100-kilometer) orbit by early September.

Then the Vikram lander will detach from the orbiter to start descent maneuvers, ending with a 15-minute touchdown sequence from an altitude of about 100,000 ft (30 kilometers) on Sept. 6, in response to ISRO.

“These 15 minutes are going to be the most terrifying moment for all of us,” Sivan mentioned. “It is going to be a terrifying moment because … ISRO has never undertaken such a complex flight. This 15 minutes of flight is the most complex mission ISRO has ever undertaken.”

Artist’s idea of the Chandrayaan 2 lander. Credit score: ISRO

5 throttleable liquid-fueled engines will management the lander’s charge of descent, and a laser rangefinder will information the spacecraft towards a touchdown zone in an historic polar highlands area between two craters at roughly 70.9 levels south latitude, and 22.Eight levels east longitude.

The Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft’s three elements every carry a set of scientific devices:

  • Orbiter
    • Mass: 5,244 kilos (2,379 kilograms)
    • Dimensions: 3.2 x 5.Eight x 2.1 meters (10.5 x 19.Zero x 6.9 ft)
    • Energy: 1,000 watts
    • Description: The Chandrayaan 2 orbiter — designed for a one-year mission — carries eight scientific devices, together with a high-resolution stereo imaging digicam, a dual-frequency artificial aperture radar search for proof of water ice on the lunar poles, an imaging infrared spectrometer to help within the seek for water, and sensors to review the moon’s tenuous environment. The orbiter can even present information relay companies the Vikram lander.
  • Vikram Lander
    • Mass: 3,243 kilos (1,471 kilograms)
    • Dimensions: 2.54 x 2.Zero x 1.2 meters (8.33 x 6.6 x 3.9 ft)
    • Energy: 650 watts
    • Description: The Vikram lander’s focused landing zone is situated in a highland area on the the close to aspect of the moon at roughly 70.9 levels south latitude, nearer to the moon’s south pole than any earlier lunar touchdown mission. Vikram will use 5 throttleable liquid-fueled engines to decelerate for touchdown. The stationary touchdown craft carries a set of a number of cameras and three science devices, together with a seismometer to hear for moonquakes, a thermal probe to achieve a depth of as much as 33 ft (10 meters) to measure the vertical temperature gradient within the lunar crust, sensors to research plasma close to the moon’s floor, and a NASA-provided laser retroreflector array to assist scientists find the lander’s precise place on the moon. The Vikram lander is designed to final 14 days on the moon, equal to at least one lunar day.
  • Pragyan Rover
    • Mass: 59 kilos (27 kilograms)
    • Dimensions: 0.9 x 0.75 x 0.85 meters (3.Zero x 2.46 x 2.79 ft)
    • Energy: 50 watts
    • Description: The solar-powered Pragyan rover has a spread of as much as 500 meters, or 1,640 ft, throughout its 14-day mission on the moon. The AI-enabled rover has six wheels and can relay science information and pictures by a radio hyperlink with the Vikram lander. Indian scientists put in an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer to measure the fundamental composition of the rocks on the Chandrayaan 2 touchdown website, together with a laser-induced breakdown spectroscope. The Pragyan rover is called for the Sanskrit phrase for “wisdom.”

The lander’s focused vacation spot is roughly 220 miles (350 kilometers) from the rim of the South Pole-Aitken basin, a area scientists imagine is one of the vital historic affect websites within the photo voltaic system, created when a big asteroid or comet struck the moon billions of years in the past.

For the primary time, Chandrayaan 2’s rover may study historic materials within the lunar crust ejected throughout the colossal collision that created the South Pole-Aitken basin, offering information that might yield clues in regards to the photo voltaic system’s chaotic early historical past.

China’s Chang’e Four mission, landed on the far aspect of the moon in January, is exploring the mid-latitudes of the southern hemisphere, inside the South Pole-Aitken basin.

Not like the Indian Pragyan rover, Chang’e Four doesn’t carry an alpha X-ray spectrometer, or APXS, to acquire compositional measurements of the lunar crust. The presence of such an instrument on-board Chandrayaan 2 may very well be boon for lunar geologists.

Neal mentioned he wished Chang’e 4’s rover, named Yutu 2, carried an APXS instrument to the far aspect of the moon.

The APXS on the Indian rover “will give us an idea of the chemical composition of the rocks that are there,” Neal mentioned. “That is going to be a critical piece of the puzzle … It’s going to tell us more about the composition at that particular vicinity, whether or not it will find water. It doesn’t look like it’s too close to the permanently-shadowed regions, but we don’t know what’s underneath the regolith there.”

Science instrumentation on Chandrayaan 2’s orbiter may present essentially the most detailed information but obtained in regards to the quantity of water ice hidden contained in the moon’s polar craters. The sensors can even detect the presence of hydroxyl molecules, which have oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded collectively.

The Indian orbiter’s dual-frequency radar, with L-band and S-band beams, shall be delicate to underground ice deposits as much as 16 ft (5 meters) under the lunar floor, twice as deep as reachable by radars carried Chandrayaan 1 and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

“I think on the orbiter — it’s got a year long mission — the radar would be good because although LRO has a radar, it is only in receiving mode, not transmission mode, so we have to transmit from Earth in order to use it right now,” Neal mentioned. “So a lot of locations are not amenable to that.”

Chandrayaan 2 may give scientists extra refined maps of the placement of water ice deposits, and a extra correct stock for a way a lot water is trapped contained in the permanently-shadowed polar craters.

“That has a lot of potential, as does the infrared spectrometer,” Neal mentioned. “It’ll help show whether or not there’s a hydroxyl or water signal at the surface.”

Such info is vital for future human expeditions to the moon, similar to these deliberate as a part of NASA’s Artemis program, which goals to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 beneath a directive from the Trump administration.

India’s lunar lander could quickly be joined on the moon by privately-developed probes and rovers. NASA awarded contracts to a few U.S. corporations to construct robotic landers to hold U.S. science devices to the moon in 2020 and 2021.

Earlier this 12 months, a privately-funded Israeli spacecraft named Beresheet tried to land on the moon, however the probe crashed throughout remaining descent.

“I think the international and the commercial interest in the moon is really fantastic, and what it shows us is that the world and private industry have caught up with NASA,” Neal mentioned.

The launch of Chandrayaan 2 will come two days earlier than the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the primary mission to land astronauts on the moon.

“I think it’s good to see other nations going to the moon,” Neal mentioned. “Apollo has stimulated, 50 years on, international interest just as it did back in the ’60s and early ’70s.”

E mail the writer.

Comply with Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.


Astronomy & Space

Japanese spacecraft snags second pattern from asteroid – Astronomy Now

July 12, 2019 • By
A digicam on-board Hayabusa 2 exhibits the spacecraft’s sampler horn contacting the asteroid’s floor, then kicking up rocky particles after firing a sampling projectile. Credit score: JAXA

Scientists celebrated one other success with Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft on 11 July when the robotic explorer completed a second pinpoint touch-and-go touchdown on asteroid Ryugu, this time to gather a pattern of pristine mud and rock excavated by an explosive impactor earlier this 12 months.

Utilizing rocket thrusters to regulate its descent, and guided by a laser vary finder, Hayabusa 2 glacially approached Ryugu on autopilot, slowing to a relative velocity of about 10 centimetres per second (4-inches per second) within the ultimate section of the touchdown.

Hayabusa 2 manoeuvred over a vibrant navigation help launched on the asteroid’s floor earlier this 12 months to mark the touchdown website, then went in for the ultimate descent, with the probe’s sampling horn extending from the entrance of the spacecraft.

Telemetry information and imagery downlinked from Hayabusa 2 present the spacecraft briefly touched down on the asteroid at 0106 GMT (10:06 a.m. Japan Commonplace Time), and started climbing away from Ryugu seconds later, pulsing its thrusters to counteract the 900-meter-wide (half-mile-wide) asteroid’s feeble gravity.

At a press convention round 4 hours later, officers hailed the temporary touchdown as an ideal success, following the mission’s first touch-and-go touchdown on Ryugu in February.

“Hayabusa 2 today executed a second touchdown, and we were able to obtain (information about) the history of the Solar System,” stated Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa 2’s mission supervisor on the Japan Aerospace Exploration Company.

Floor groups cheered when information streaming again from the spacecraft, at the moment orbiting the solar in lock-step with Ryugu greater than 244 million kilometres (151 million miles) from Earth, confirmed the landing.

Launched in December 2014, Hayabusa 2 is Japan’s mission to journey to an asteroid and gather samples for return to Earth. Scientists are desirous to analyse specimens from Ryugu, a darkish asteroid wealthy in carbon, a important constructing block of life.

Researchers will examine the samples for clues in regards to the formation of the Photo voltaic System 4.6 billion years in the past, and maybe the origin of water and life on Earth.

Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa 2’s mission supervisor, speaks with reporters Thursday. Credit score: JAXA

Mission managers final month determined to ship Hayabusa 2 on a second sampling run to collect bits of rock and dirt from a second location on Ryugu, offering scientists with extra different supplies to look at when the mission returns to Earth late subsequent 12 months.

Hayabusa 2’s sampling mechanism works by firing a steel bullet into the asteroid as soon as the probe’s sampler horn contacts the floor. The projectile is designed to pressure bits of rock and dirt via the sampler horn into a group chamber inside spacecraft.

Takanao Saiki, Hayabusa 2’s mission engineer and flight director at JAXA, informed reporters in a press briefing Thursday that information downlinked by the spacecraft confirmed the temperature rose within the projectile’s firing mechanism on the time of touchdown, suggesting the system functioned as supposed.

Three pictures taken by a digicam on-board Hayabusa 2 confirmed the sampling horn contacting the asteroid, then violently blasting away particles from the floor. Numerous tiny asteroid fragments had been seen across the spacecraft within the ultimate snapshot within the three-image sequence launched by JAXA.

“The third picture is really amazing,” stated Makoto Yoshikawa, Hayabusa 2’s mission supervisor “It’s really awesome, a large amount of chips of rocks are flying off.”

“This is a wonderful picture, I think,” Tsuda stated. “Hayabusa 2 touched the surface of Ryugu, so this is evidence.”

A distinct view of the touchdown website taken by Hayabusa 2’s navigation digicam exhibits a cloud of particles left behind moments after the spacecraft took off from the asteroid.

Hayabusa 2’s navigation digicam recorded this view of the spacecraft’s touchdown website moments after the touch-and-go maneuver, exhibiting a cloud of particles left in its wake. Credit score: JAXA, College of Tokyo, Kochi College, Rikkyo College, Nagoya College, Chiba Institute of Know-how, Meiji College, College of Aizu and AIST

With its second and ultimate pattern assortment full, Hayabusa 2 began to climb again to a “home position” roughly 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the asteroid. The spacecraft closed the lid to the pattern catcher machine containing the asteroid pay grime, and floor groups will later ship instructions to seal it contained in the re-entry canister that may carry the fabric via Earth’s environment on the finish of the mission.

“There’s nothing I need to complain about, everything moved perfectly,” Tsuda stated via a translator. “It was a perfect operation, so … it’s a 1,000 score out of 100.”

Not solely did the specimens gathered Wednesday come from a special location on Ryugu than the primary sampling run, scientists say the newly-captured supplies originated from beneath the asteroid’s floor, the place they might have escaped radiation and different house weathering results for billions of years.

The pristine samples had been uncovered throughout a daring, unprecedented bombing run by the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft in April. The probe deployed an explosive cost to fireplace into the asteroid at excessive velocity, carving a recent crater and ejecting buried supplies across the affect website, ripe for retrieval by Hayabusa 2.

“We decided to obtain the samples in this particular area so that we would be able to sample the subsurface materials … and because our operation was perfectly conducted, therefore, we can observe that we obtained some subsurface samples,” stated Seiichiro Watanabe, Hayabusa 2’s mission scientist from Nagoya College.

“Bringing the subsurface materials (back to Earth) will be something no other country can do in the coming 20 years or so,” Watanabe stated.

Hayabusa 2’s sampler provider has three chambers to separate supplies gathered from every touchdown. Officers determined to press forward with the second sampling run after assessing the scientific advantages and engineering dangers of the maneuver, however with two samples now on-board the spacecraft, mission managers don’t plan to aim a 3rd sampling run.

Artist’s idea of the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft touching down on asteroid Ryugu. Credit score: JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita

Whereas Hayabusa 2 explores Ryugu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is surveying asteroid Bennu earlier than shifting in to gather a pattern there in 2020 for return to scientists on Earth in 2023.

OSIRIS-REx is designed to convey dwelling a minimum of 60 grammes (2.1 ounces) of samples from Bennu, considerably greater than Hayabusa 2. However OSIRIS-REx is just anticipated to gather a single pattern from one location on Bennu’s floor.

NASA and JAXA agreed in 2014 to share their asteroid samples.

Named for a dragon’s palace in a well-known Japanese fairy story, asteroid Ryugu completes one circuit of the Solar each 1.three years. Its path briefly brings it inside Earth’s orbit, making Ryugu a probably hazardous asteroid.

The orbit additionally made Ryugu a lovely candidate for a pattern return mission.

The Hayabusa 2 spacecraft arrived at Ryugu in June 2018, and deployed three cell scouts to hop across the asteroid’s floor final September and October, reaching one other first in house exploration.

Hayabusa 2 will depart Ryugu in November or December and hearth its ion engines to move for Earth, the place it would launch a re-entry capsule protected by a warmth protect to land in Australia in December 2020.

“We have captured the samples,” Tsuda stated. “We must make sure that it comes back to Earth, so we need to continue with the operations properly.”

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Comply with Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.


Astronomy & Space

Additional Jupiter occasions for UK observers in July 2019 – Astronomy Now

July 10, 2019 • By

This beautiful picture of Jupiter with its Nice Purple Spot (GRS) shortly after transit was captured by Christopher Go within the Philippines utilizing a Celestron C14 telescope and QHY 290M digicam on 22 June 2019 at 15:44 UT. Be aware the turbulence within the wake (left) of the GRS and the totally different look of the planet’s most important North and South Equatorial Belts. The GRS is seen in 7.6-cm (3-inch) and bigger telescopes on nights of excellent seeing. North is up and celestial east is to the left. Picture credit score: Christopher Go.

As June attracts to an in depth, largest planet Jupiter is an unmistakable magnitude -2.5 naked-eye object discovered highest within the southern sky of the British Isles near 11:30pm BST. By 13 July, when the planet lies near the 11-day-old Moon, the pair attain their peak altitude due south round 10:45pm BST.

Jupiter’s present location within the southern reaches of the constellation Ophiuchus does imply that the planet will get no larger than 14 levels above the southern horizon for an observer within the coronary heart of the UK, however on nights of calm air with good seeing there are nonetheless wonders to behold with telescopes of apertures as small as 7.6-cm (3-inch) at magnifications of 100× or extra.

Nice Purple Spot
Whereas Jupiter’s Nice Purple Spot (GRS) seems to have briefly ceased its flaking exercise (see this story), observers ought to hold a eager eye on this Earth-sized anticyclonic storm within the Jovian environment.

The desk on the backside of this web page lists the perfect occasions to see the GRS for observers within the British Isles and people components of Western Europe at an analogous longitude (e.g., Spain, Portugal, Central and Western France). For different places worldwide, seek the advice of our interactive on-line Almanac, guaranteeing that the ‘Add phenomena of Jupiter?’ checkbox is ticked.

Jupiter’s moons
The biggest planet at all times has extra to supply than cloud options in its always churning environment. Jupiter is a veritable miniature photo voltaic system in its personal proper, with a household of 79 identified pure satellites. The 4 massive Galilean moons — Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto — frequently cross in entrance of (transit), are eclipsed (passing into shadow) or occulted (hidden) by Jupiter.

Because of the present orbital inclination of Callisto to our line of sight, the outermost Galilean moon passes above or beneath Jupiter at conjunction. Observers within the UK can witness this (climate allowing) on Sunday, 14 July at 11:31pm BST when Callisto passes barely lower than 4 arcseconds south of Jupiter. Earlier this night time, don’t miss Io (left) rising from Jupiter’s shadow at 11:19pm BST. AN graphic by Ade Ashford.

Io, Europa and Ganymede show transits, shadow transits (the place their shadows seem as inky black dots drifting throughout Jupiter’s cloud tops), eclipses and occultations all through July, as summarised for the British Isles and comparable longitudes within the desk beneath.

Phenomena of Jupiter and its vivid Galilean moons seen from the British Isles all through July 2019. Be aware that each one occasions are given in British Summer time Time (BST), so subtract one hour to transform to Common Time/GMT. Computation and information preparation: Ade Ashford/Information.


Astronomy & Space

See ringed planet Saturn at its greatest in July 2019 – Astronomy Now

July 8, 2019 • By

This looping animation reveals the southern horizon as seen from the British Isles on consecutive sidereal days round 12am BST from 14 to 17 July 2019. Therefore the celebs seem stationary and the movement of the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn is extra simply perceived. For scale, the view is about 50 levels broad, or slightly greater than twice the span of an outstretched hand at arm’s size. Be aware: the Moon’s obvious measurement is enlarged thrice for readability. AN graphic: Ade Ashford.

As July opens, any observer in Western Europe with a transparent sky round native midnight can not miss out on the conspicuous ‘star’ that’s Jupiter low within the south. In the event you’re nonetheless up round 1am, have a look a couple of span-and-a-half of an outstretched hand at arm’s size to Jupiter’s left and, at an analogous peak above the horizon you’ll discover one other big of the photo voltaic system – Saturn. By mid-July, Saturn and Jupiter straddle the southern meridian at native midnight, as depicted within the animation above.

Shining at magnitude +0.1, Saturn is twelve occasions fainter than it’s bigger planetary sibling to the suitable, however the ringed planet remains to be brighter than the rest within the constellation of Sagittarius by which it presently resides. In frequent with Jupiter, Saturn at present occupies a area of the ecliptic that struggles to realize a peak altitude of 14 levels within the south for observers within the coronary heart of the UK, however it’s nonetheless worthy of a glance by means of any sized telescope.

A pc simulation of Saturn’s look at 20:37 UT (9:37pm BST) on Tuesday, 9 July 2019 – the planet’s opposition day and the moment that it’s closest to Earth for 2019 at a distance of 9.03 astronomical items (1,351 million kilometres). Saturn is greatest considered from the UK round 1am in early July, discovered barely a span-and-a-half of a fist at arm’s size above the southern horizon. Nevertheless, even at such a low altitude, on nights of regular seeing the planet’s wonderful rings – with the planet’s north pole at present tilted by 24 levels in the direction of our line of sight – are wonderful to behold in any telescope. What’s the smallest telescope in which you’ll understand the Cassini Division, the skinny black line between the planet’s A & B rings? AN graphic by Ade Ashford/Stellarium.

Observing Saturn
With a declination of -22 levels, Saturn is at present greatest seen from the Southern Hemisphere. As considered from Australia, for instance, the ringed planet is nearly overhead when on the meridian. Saturn’s low altitude from the British Isles signifies that getting clear views will likely be difficult in July 2019, however there are methods that you would be able to enhance your possibilities.

All the time give your telescope ample time to chill right down to nighttime temperatures by uncapping the lens or mirror (with the tube horizontal to keep away from dew deciding on the optics) an hour earlier than making observations. Additionally, observe from a grassy location wherever doable, avoiding concrete or asphalt that retains warmth after darkish. And don’t view Saturn over rooftops the place turbulent heat air currents rise.

Attempt to view Saturn inside an hour or so of the time it transits (see our interactive Almanac for native occasions) in order that it’s as excessive as doable above your horizon. Calm, barely misty nights when a high-pressure system sits above us usually present the steadiest planetary views.

Nevertheless, even in effective UK seeing, each Jupiter and Saturn will show atmospheric dispersion (the place the higher and decrease limbs of the planet could seem to have prismatic blue and purple fringing, respectively) attributable to our ambiance performing like a weak lens. You should buy atmospheric dispersion filters to assist counteract this, or just use a yellow/orange filter to minimize the colored fringes.

The facet of Saturn and the orbits of its brightest moons Titan and Rhea round opposition in July 2019. Observers with Newtonian/Dobsonian telescopes ought to rotate this picture by means of 180° to match their eyepiece view, whereas customers of refractors and catadioptrics (Schmidt- and Maksutov-Cassegrains) with a star diagonal must mirror this graphic left-right to copy what they see by means of the eyepiece. AN graphic: Ade Ashford.

Saturn’s vivid moons
The biggest Saturnian moon, 3,200-wile-wide Titan, orbits its father or mother planet each 16 days and is straightforward to identify in telescopes of 5-cm (2-inch) aperture or bigger because it shines at magnitude +8.5. Titan is at elongation, 4¼ ring diameters east of Saturn, on Three and 19 July. Titan could be discovered the identical distance west of the planet on 11 and 27 July.

Saturn’s second-largest moon Rhea with a 4½-day orbit can be simple to identify at magnitude +10. Elongations two ring diameters east of Saturn happen on 2, 11, 20 and 29 July. Rhea could be seen the identical distance west of Saturn on 4, 13, 22 and 31 July.


Astronomy & Space

Hayabusa 2 cleared for second landing on asteroid – Astronomy Now

July 6, 2019 • By
Artist’s idea of the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft touching down on asteroid Ryugu. Credit score: JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita

Floor groups have authorized plans for Japan’s Hayabusa 2 pattern return mission to briefly land on asteroid Ryugu for the second time on 11 July, aiming for a focused touch-and-go to assemble materials uncovered by an explosive impactor launched by the robotic explorer in April.

Officers from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Company, or JAXA, introduced the choice on 27 June after weeks of surveys, apply approaches and deliberations to make sure the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft can safely contact down on the rugged web site, which is strewn with boulders and rocks that might pose hazards to the probe.

The target of this touch-and-go touchdown is to gather a second set of samples from the carbon-rich asteroid for return to Earth.

Hayabusa 2 is within the ultimate stretch of an almost 18-month exploration marketing campaign at asteroid Ryugu earlier than firing its ion thrusters late this yr for the return journey to Earth. Thus far, the mission has achieved a pinpoint touchdown and takeoff from the asteroid, deployed three daughter probes to hop round Ryugu’s floor, and carved a brand new crater on the asteroid after dropping an explosive cost.

Yet one more touch-and-go touchdown and the discharge of the mission’s ultimate cell floor scout are deliberate within the coming weeks.

Hayabusa 2 gathered a primary batch of samples from Ryugu’s floor in February after executing a pinpoint landing on a special a part of the 900-metre (0.5 mile) broad asteroid.

The robotic explorer’s sampling mechanism works by firing a steel bullet into the asteroid as soon as the probe’s sampler horn, which extends from one aspect of the spacecraft, contacts the floor. The projectile is designed to blast away rock and dirt on the asteroid’s floor, then direct the fabric by means of the sampler horn into a set chamber contained in the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft.

Whereas there isn’t a direct approach to measure how a lot pattern Hayabusa 2 collected in February, scientists stated telemetry information broadcast again to Earth prompt the sampling system labored as designed.

In early April, Hayabusa 2 launched the Small Carry-On Impactor, an explosive system that drove a copper mass into the asteroid to create a brand new crater, uncovering rocks that had been buried beneath Ryugu’s floor, maybe for billions of years.

Scientists will goal the 11 July touchdown a brief distance from the recent crater, the place they imagine materials ejected by the affect fell. The brand new samples could embrace pristine subsurface specimens which have escaped radiation and different asteroid weathering impacts from daylight and excessive temperature swings.

Hayabusa 2’s optical navigation digicam captured this view of asteroid Ryugu from a distance of 6 kilometers (Four miles) on July 20, 2018. Credit score: JAXA

A second profitable sampling try would make Hayabusa 2 the primary mission to gather a subsurface specimen from an asteroid for return Earth.

Assuming the touch-and-go snags a pattern that was uncovered by the mission’s explosive impactor, scientists anticipate the fabric will include info from the early formation of the Photo voltaic System 4.6 billion years in the past, similar to natural molecules that grew to become the constructing blocks for all times.

“Subsurface materials are particularly valuable for sensitive organics,” scientists wrote in a mission replace final month.

Engineers designed Hayabusa 2 to gather samples from as much as three areas on the asteroid, however mission managers have dominated out gathering a 3rd pattern. The mission solely wanted one pattern to fulfill minimal success standards.

Throughout preparations for the second sampling try, Hayabusa 2 dropped a goal marker onto the asteroid on 30 Might to assist the spacecraft information itself towards the touchdown zone. The probe additionally took high-resolution photographs of the realm to assist scientists determine if they need to press forward with one other landing.

Officers mulled the scientific benefit and security dangers of a second touchdown try, and the bottom staff finally elected to go forward with the landing.

Hayabusa 2 had till this month to attempt for a second landing. Ryugu is nearing the purpose in its orbit closest to the Solar, and rising temperatures on the asteroid will prohibit the spacecraft from touchdown later this yr, officers stated.

Whereas Hayabusa 2 explores Ryugu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is surveying asteroid Bennu earlier than transferring in to gather a pattern there in 2020 for return to scientists on Earth in 2023.

OSIRIS-REx is designed to deliver dwelling no less than 60 grams (2.1 ounces) of samples from Bennu, considerably greater than Hayabusa 2. However OSIRIS-REx is simply anticipated to gather a single pattern from one location on Bennu’s floor.

As soon as the second pattern assortment is full, Hayabusa 2 is anticipated to deploy the final of its 4 daughter probes to hop across the asteroid’s floor.

Hayabusa 2’s return journey to Earth is scheduled start in November or December, with re-entry of the mission’s sample-carrying descent capsule set for late 2020 over Australia, the place restoration groups will decide up the specimens for evaluation in laboratories in Japan and the USA.

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Observe Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.


Astronomy & Space

SuperCam and robotic arm put in on 2020 Mars rover – Astronomy Now

July 4, 2019 • By
Engineers connect the Mars 2020 rover’s principal robotic arm in a clear room on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The mast supporting the NASA-CNES SuperCam instrument is seen at left. Picture: NASA/JPL-Caltech

After putting in the wheels and suspension that can allow the Mars 2020 rover to maneuver concerning the floor of the purple planet, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have put in the SuperCam instrument and the rover’s 2.1-metre (7-foot)-long robotic arm. Launch stays focused for July 2020.

The multi-purpose SuperCam, developed by the French area company CNES and the Los Alamos Nationwide Laboratory in the USA, is has been dubbed the Swiss military knife of devices” aboard the rover.

Just like the ChemCam instrument aboard the Curiosity rover at present at work in Gale Crater, SuperCam options an expanded set of remote-sensing instruments that can allow distant detection of compounds that would have performed a job within the growth of life if it ever advanced on Mars.

Capabilities embrace Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, or LIBS, for finding out elemental composition, infrared and Raman spectroscopy, color imaging and audio recording with a microphone.

For direct manipulation of floor samples, Mars 2020 is now outfitted with its principal robotic arm, put in 21 June. The appendage options 5 motorised joints and ultimately will carry a fancy rotating turret on its finish that can embrace high-definition cameras, science devices and a percussive drill and coring mechanism to gather and assist analyse soil and rock samples. The rover additionally will cache collected samples on the floor for doable return to Earth on a future mission.

“You have to give a hand to our rover arm installation team,” Ryan van Schilifgaarde, an meeting engineer, mentioned in a NASA launch. “They made an extremely intricate operation look easy. We’re looking forward to more of the same when the arm will receive its turret in the next few weeks.”

The Mars 2020 rover is scheduled to land in Jezero Crater on 18 February 2021.