From time to time, as relevant images about minor objects currently in the news become available from observers or from public news sources, we include one with a brief caption at the top of our daily news. This page catalogs the images posted this year along with their captions and links. (Jump to this year's latest.)
This past week Science@NASA had a report on some 1,500 multi-micron-size particles returned from 25143 Itokawa by JAXA's Hayabusa mission. See more links here. Image ©copyright 2010 JAXA.
NASA/JPL has released radar imagery from December when 2010 JL33 was at about 22 lunar distances from Earth, describing it as "an irregular, elongated object roughly 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) wide that rotates once every nine hours [and has] a large concavity that may be an impact crater." See also this. Credit: NASA/JPL Goldstone.
Turns out that the home stretch to discovering the 2,000th SOHO comet, which is seen here from the 26th of last month, included an "unprecedented" storm of 25 Sun-diving comets during 13-22 December. These were small as comets go, on the order of ten meters in diameter, but are part of a trend that may "herald a much bigger sungrazer to come, something people could see with the naked eye," according to a Science@NASA report this week. Illustration credit: NASA/Goddard, ESA, and SOHO-Battams.
The Stardust-NExT mission will fly past comet 9P/Tempel 1 tomorrow night, early on the 15th UTC, to get a new look at the crater made by the Deep Impact mission in 2005. Seen here is a NASA composite of the first images of the target (faint fuzzy area just left of center) from the spacecraft on January 16th and 19th. For recent updates on the encounter, see this and this. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
An artistic visualization of tonight's Stardust-NExT encounter with comet 9P/Tempel 1, with closest passage at 0337 UTC tomorrow morning. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Update #2: See news items from the University of Chicago Friday and NASA today.
This is one of 72 images of the comet 9P/Tempel 1 nucleus from this morning's Stardust-NExT fly-by. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell. For more images, a stereo pair and an animation, along with preliminary explanations, see the Planetary Society Blog.
It was announced yesterday that "The WISE Spacecraft transmitter was turned off for the final time at 12:00 noon PST today... The Spacecraft will remain in hibernation without ground contacts awaiting possible future use." NASA/JPL had already reported on the first of this month that the mission's extended "NEOWISE" asteroid survey had been completed. In this composite WISE infrared false-color imagery, Main Belter 1719 Jens was caught traversing the Tadpole nebula in Auriga, credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA.
The ESA Rosetta blog yesterday reported a successful resolution to a failed January 18th thruster burn. The fix "enables the spacecraft to perform even better than before" and the spacecraft is now "more or less lined up to meet Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014." See more info here. Credit: ESA, illustration by AOES Medialab.
UC Berkeley has a news item about the double satellites of 216 Kleopatra which have been named for historical twins Alexhelios and Cleoselene. Read more here and see Franck Marchis's blog post from last year about studying other multiple asteroid systems. Image credit: Keck II, Marchis, et al.
First noted on the Minor Planet Mailing List (MPML) is that slides have been posted from last month's Washington, D.C. open workshop, "Target NEO: Providing a Resilient NEO Accessibility Program for Human Exploration Beyond LEO." Included is a statement of Minor Planet Center support (PDF) that mentions its new NEOCP blog, sobering notes from Alan Harris about target availability (PDF), radar observation info (PDF), mention of suitports vs. airlocks, a space-based telescope proposal (PDF) to find find all visitable NEOs down to 30 meters within 540 days, and much more. Image from the GWU/SPI-Ball Aero workshop flyer.
Science@NASA reports that NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office (MEO) with its original three-camera all-sky network near Huntsville, Alabama will "soon have 15 cameras deployed east of the Mississippi River, with plans to expand nationwide." Using the new NASA Fireball Network pages, everyone can view videos and automated reports that may include orbit and ground path calculations from ASGARD software. The composite image above shows Geminid meteors above Marshall Space Flight Center last December, credit NASA/MSFC/MEO-Danielle Moser.
Lawrence Livermore Lab announced news yesterday about mixing in the Sun's protoplanetary disk based on surface layers found in a miniscule calcium-aluminum intrusion (CAI) from a piece of the Allende meteorite (see also a UC Berkeley report). And, in unrelated news from Arizona State University March 1st, researchers have found "large amounts of ammonia in a primitive Antarctic [meterorite]," CR2 Grave Nunataks (GRA) 95229 (image above, ©copyright Arizona Board of Regents). This is described as "very provocative" and may help explain the availability of nitrogen for prebiotic chemical reactions on the early Earth.
Not all impact craters are round. ESA published images yesterday from the Mars Express orbiter showing one of two unnamed elongated craters located south of Huygens Crater on Mars, explaining that it may have been formed by adjacent impacts from two or three pieces of a fractured object. This is a perspective view, credit ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum).
The NASA/JPL NEO Program Office started lining up support yesterday for a 2005 YU55 observing campaign to include radar, infrared, and visual observations when this object flies through the Earth-Moon system this coming November. It was already caught once by Arecibo, as seen here from last April. Radar imagery credit: NASA/Cornell/Arecibo.
Last December's discovery by the Catalina Sky Survey of Main Belter 596 Scheila's sudden comet-like appearance was followed up immediately by amateur observers (see links) and soon from the Swift mission using its Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT), as seen here, and later from the Hubble Space Telescope, as reported yesterday in news items from NASA HQ, HubbleSite, and NASA/GSFC. "The absence of gas around Scheila led the Swift team to reject scenarios where exposed ice accounted for the activity," and the simplest explanation is impact by an unknown small asteroid. Image credit: NASA/Swift and Dennis Bodewits (UMD).
A message today on the Minor Planet Mailing List (MPML) appealed for participation from observers on or to either side of tonight's 0630 UTC track for the star shadow of 217 Eudora that will span the U.S. An observation campaign is seeking to determine the shape of the Main Belter and also looking for accompanying satellites. Image credit: Steve Preston.
The Dawn mission reported Friday that the spacecraft is now sneaking up to 4 Vesta "at only 240 meters per second (540 mph)." On June 6th it will be just one lunar distance from the second largest Main Belter, which presently is a very bright light to the onboard cameras but will soon begin to loom large. Illustration credit: Dawn mission.
ESA reports that the Rosetta spacecraft has been spin stabilized and put into hibernation, leaving only a computer counter and heaters running until January 2014, when it is scheduled to awake and travel with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko toward perihelion. This image of the still very distant comet was produced using "extensive processing [of] a composite of many images" taken from Rosetta during 25-26 March. Credit: ESA Rosetta Osiris imaging team.
The Dawn spacecraft was reported yesterday to be getting close enough to 4 Vesta to obtain imagery "approaching the resolution of the best Hubble Space Telescope images." This frame is from June 1st, credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.
In a NASA/Goddard news item yesterday, EPOXI manager Tim Larson tells that, "From all the imaging we took during approach, we knew [103P/Hartley 2] was a little skittish... It was moving around the sky like a knuckleball and gave my navigators fits, and these new results show this little comet is downright hyperactive." See also a U. Maryland report. November 10th image credit: NASA/JPL/UM.
Peter Lake in Australia imaged tiny intruder 2011 MD streaking past Earth today by using his iPhone to control a telescope at RAS Mayhill in New Mexico. Tomorrow this tiny object will make the fourth closest Earth passage yet observed with telescopes, at 0.05 lunar distance (see JPL and MPC lists for comparison). Image ©copyright 2011 Peter Lake, used with permission.
Astronomer Tom Gehrels has passed away. He was an early member of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Lab and co-founder of the pioneering Spacewatch Project, among numerous other accomplishments. See yesterday's U.A. news and Sky & Telescope report. Photo courtesy of U.A.
NASA reports that its Dawn spacecraft is expected to enter orbit early tomorrow UTC around the Main Belt's second largest asteroid, 4 Vesta (seen here in mission imagery from six days ago), following some recent difficulties. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS/DLR/IDA.
NASA announced yesterday that a fourth satellite, which it calls "P4" but is officially designated S/2011 (134340) 1, was discovered within the Pluto system by the Hubble Space Telescope last month and confirmed this month. See IAU CBAT CBET 2769 for observation credits and more details. Illustration credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild/STScI.
NASA is claiming discovery of the first Earth Trojan asteroid, 2010 TK10, seen here in false-color WISE space telescope October 2010 infrared imagery. Working from a short observation arc and admitting orbital instabilities, the claim has raised discussion on the Minor Planet Mailing List (MPML thread and see this, second paragraph). Sky & Telescope and Space.com have reports. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA.
NASA/JPL reported yesterday on the Dawn mission beginning its year-long study of 4 Vesta. This image from the spacecraft's framing camera on 24 July 2011 shows high ground at the giant asteroid's south pole. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/ MPS/DLR/IDA.
NASA and others are planning robotic and human missions to near-Earth asteroids, and A/CC has been asked to bring special attention to candidate destinations, most of which badly need astrometry and photometry. As a small first step, we today started flagging such objects with a red "target" notation. There's one below in today's DOU MPEC - 39565 1992 SL, observed by New Millennium Observatory in Italy. A list of 297 such objects has been received from Josh Hopkins at Lockheed Martin, compiled from his and others' work, and we'll be posting that soon with MPES ephemerides links. This illustration from Lockheed Martin was posted here last year.
Sometime between 1900 and 1930 UTC, the JPL Solar System Dynamics (SSD) Group Radar Astrometry database posted observations from today of inbound 2005 YU55 from Goldstone in southern California (see here). Refined ephemerides are available from SSD Horizons for when this intruder becomes visible to ground-based optical observers on November 8th. This image of the object is from Arecibo in April 2010. Radar imagery credit: NASA/Cornell/Arecibo.
A/CC is now posting a list from Josh Hopkins at Lockheed Martin of Potentially Accessible Asteroids for robotic and human missions along with an ephemerides page to help observers take part in an observing campaign. Astrometry is needed for many objects and photometry is especially needed for most. We have been recognizing observations of these NEOs (such as in the campaigns section of today's DOU MPEC report here) since mid-October. This image, an artist's conception of an Orion spacecraft near an asteroid, is from a flyer for a conference on "Human Exploration Beyond LEO" reported earlier this year (see presentation PDF by Hopkins et al.).
With the bright Moon, today's DOU MPEC canceled, and everyone distracted by the passage of current intruder 2005 YU55, it's a good time to catch up on some planetary radar news. 2010 AL30 was a January 2010 intruder and Goldstone in southern California was able to catch it in the act only three days after discovery using "a new delay-Doppler radar chirp waveform system" to make this "one of the smallest NEAs spatially resolved with radar to date" (see the four-frame composite above, credit NASA/JPL). And an October report tells about only the 15th radar detection of a comet, 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, finding a 49-km. nucleus and "a systematic bias in many of the optical observations." See our Object Links page for links to other objects with radar news.
NASA hosted a workshop 14-16 Nov. in San Diego, Calif. about an international vision for human space exploration. Josh Hopkins's presentation (PDF) argues that "The most practical way to reach more asteroids is not to invest in better spaceships, but in better telescopes for surveys and tracking," advocating support for amateur, educational, and professional participation. His Potentially Accessible Asteroids list is here with ephemerides. This Lockheed Martin artwork depicts an Orion spacecraft near an asteroid.
Comet C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) is on its way to a very close and probably fatal solar passage on December 16th. This is part of a frame from an animation compiled by Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab from December 11th imagery from NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft. He has a running page with details and images as this event progresses.
Among papers posted recently at arXiv.org that may interest A/CC visitors are these today: "P/2010A2 LINEAR - I: An impact in the Asteroid Main Belt" by Olivier Hainaut et al. (see notes for this HST image, credit NASA/ESA/Jewitt) and "The Compositions of Kuiper Belt Objects," a review by Mike Brown of the data now available.
Note: As we advised yesterday, keep an eye on Karl Battam's C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) page. He predicts that this comet might become naked-eye visible from North America at sunset today and now shows there is a small companion comet.
Comet C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) is seen in December 14th imagery from NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft, processed by Karl Battams of the U.S. Naval Research Lab to enhance the view of solar outflow and comet tail motion and disconnections. The arrow points to what is described not as a fragment but a small companion comet. SpaceWeather.com reports that "Comet Lovejoy could become visible to the naked eye in broad daylight" today. Watch Battams' page for updated details and new images. New: See an ESA news item with SOHO images of this comet.
Comet C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) has defied predictions of destruction in an extremely close solar passage by re-emerging from behind the Sun bright and now with a new tail, seen in this SOHO LASCO C3 image from 1618 UTC today, where the old faint tail appears to hang down to the lower left of the Sun. In a message to the Comets Mailing List, comet expert John Bortle states, "we are witnessing one of the most extraordinary events in cometary history. The manner in which Comet Lovejoy is evolving is, to my knowledge, totally unique in the comet record." See Karl Battams' special page for a running account with event details, images, and animations. Image credit: ESA/NASA.
Comet C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) has survived an extremely close perihelion to put on an early morning show in the southern hemisphere, and also can be seen from the International Space Station, where Expedition 30 commander Dan Burbank took this December 21st photo as the comet appeared behind Earth just before ISS sunrise. See Cometography, SpaceWeather.com, and Karl Battam's ongoing report for more images and details of this event still in progress. Credit: Burbank, NASA.
Posted to arXiv.org yesterday is a paper, "The Active Asteroids," in which David Jewitt states that an impact explanation for P/2010 A2's activity (above, more info) doesn't fit the event timescale and rotational disruption may have been the cause. HST image, credit NASA/ESA/Jewitt.
Another recent paper, "The population of natural Earth satellites" by Mikael Granvik, Jeremie Vaubaillon, and Robert Jedicke, discusses oddball 2006 RH120. They argue that there's always "at least one NES of 1-meter diameter orbiting the Earth," and an estimated "0.1% of all meteors" enter Earth orbit prior to impact.
C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) at dawn, Cerro Paranal, Chile, by Guillaume Blanchard on December 22nd. Credit: Blanchard/ESO.