Rosetta probe rendevous with comet

Rosetta spacecraft image of Comet 67/P on 6 August 2014. Day of orbital insertion.

Rosetta spacecraft image of Comet 67/P on 6 August 2014. Day of orbital insertion. Copyright ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

After a complex journey using the Earth and Mars as gravity slings to travel some 6.4 billion kilometers over a period of nearly 10.5 years, , the European Space Agency announced the arrival of the Rosetta spacecraft in orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  Rosetta will be the first mission ever to orbit a comet’s nucleus and land a probe on its surface. It will also be the first spacecraft to fly alongside a comet as it heads towards the inner Solar System, watching how a frozen comet is transformed by the warmth of the Sun.

Welcome wants to be your intelligent portal to observing the universe around you. The key aspects to all our resources are:

  • Immediacy: We’re all about what’s happening NOW.
  • Quality: Each resource is curated by our staff to ensure it’s worth your time.
  • Usefulness: If you want to know the status of a volcano, odds are it’s important to you. (Like “get the heck outa there now!”) Similarly, when you tell someone you’ll be there “God willing and the creek don’t rise,” well maybe you better check the water levels on that creek.
  • Coolness: While nearly all the resources we feature are useful, or even critical, to somebody, the real reason most people come here is to be turned on by the “wow” factor. Sure, the Hubble pictures are stunning and you can always count of something spectacular from there. But find live cams showing eagles nesting, or see the waves come in at Waimea Bay, or see the latest data on tsunamis,volcanos, and hurricanes, or see near-real-time images of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. This stuff is not only critically important, it’s really fun and interesting to watch!

Yes, you can find what you want by Googling it, but we’re just people like you who love to learn about what’s happening now in the real world. And we love to share it with you!

Bang! (AKA V838 Mon)

Celestial processes normally take thousand of years, or even millions or billions. The night sky we observe today (minus the modern particulate and light pollution) is insignificantly different from that our ancestors observed 2000 years ago. Aside from local events like eclipses, comets, or asteroid encounters, it’s pretty rare to see something in the sky that is really really big and also really really fast. Well, it’s all relative, of course. In the case of the star called V838 Mon (in the constellation Monoceros, about 20K light years away) a singular event happened in 2002 that caused an insanely huge explosion that was captured in time-lapse over a period of four years by our good friend the Hubble Space Telescope. It’s not clear what was the cause of the explosion, but apparently it was not a nova as originally thought. In any case it was momentarily one of the largest stars ever observed (settling to the size of a mere 380 solar radii) and produced some 600,000 times more light than the sun. This video was captured from 2002 to 2006 and is NOT a simulation, though they did morph the still images to smooth the transitions.