October 24, 2017

AstroEvent(s): Of Heliacal Risings and Slender Moons.

Can you see the ultra-thin crescent? (Photo by Author).

Dust off those Sothic cycle calendars again; the Dog Days of summer are upon us; yes, it’s time this first week of August to try that feat that the Ancient Egyptians depended on, with a sighting of the dawn heliacal rising of the bright star, Sirius. [Read more...]

11.04.10- Pale Blue Crescent.

 

(Credit: ESA/OSIRIS).

(Credit: ESA/OSIRIS).

 Earth as seen from Rosetta.

   It has been said innumerable times that in traveling into space, we’ve discovered the Earth. The Rosetta spacecraft reminded us what a unique place our home is on its trajectory altering flyby on November 13th of last year. Pictured above, you can easily tell that Earth is not a stagnant world, but a dynamic place, a place where interesting things are constantly happening. When the first astronomers looked at other planets in our solar system, it was thought that these worlds might not be any more hostile than, say, Antarctica. This concept still pervades some of the more campier of science fiction worlds, even today. But our explorations of the solar system have shown us something different, that even, say, a balmy day on Mars is magnitudes more hostile than Earth’s Gobi desert.

The European Space Agencies’ Rosetta spacecraft continues that spirit of exploration. Launched in 2004, it has performed a complex series of orbital slingshots that will cause it to eventually arrive at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in May 2014. There, it’ll take measurements of the icy interloper and even deposit a lander on the surface of a comet for the first time. Last year’s passage was Rosetta’s third and last flyby of its home world. The spacecraft had just passed asteroid 2867 Steins the year before, and is slated to perform a reconnaissance of asteroid 21 Lutetia in July of this year. The close passage with Earth gave it a 2.2 mile per second kick towards its final objective.

Do give pictures like those sent back by Rosetta pause, as we are the first and truly privileged generation to see our home world not as we’d like to see it, but as it actually is. Hey, we’re all on this Big Blue Marble together… perhaps we can get jaded by anything in time, but sights like these give us hope for our  survival as a species!