Monday, August 25, 2014

New Comet: C/2014 Q3 (BORISOV)

Cbet nr. 3936, issued on 2014, August 24, announces the discovery of a comet (magnitude ~17) by G. Borisov (Observatory MARGO, Nauchnij) on CCD images obtained with a 0.3-m f/1.5 astrograph telescope on 2014, August 22.02. The new comet has been designated C/2014 Q3 (BORISOV).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 10 unfiltered exposures, 60-sec each, obtained remotely on 2014, August 23.4 from H06 (iTelescope network - Mayhill) through a 0.50-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD + f/4.5 focal reducer, shows that this object is a comet: coma about 7" in diameter elongated toward PA 215 (the comet was about +21 degree above the horizon at the moment of the imaging session).

Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)


M.P.E.C. 2014-Q38 assigns the following parabolic orbital elements to comet C/2014 Q3: T 2014 Nov. 19.24; e= 1.0; Peri. = 48.40; q = 1.63;  Incl.= 90.49

This is the third comet discovered by Gennady Borisov (previous were C/2013 N4 & C/2013 V2).

by Ernesto Guido, Nick Howes & Martino Nicolini

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Rosetta has arrived at comet 67P!

After an epic 10-year journey, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft arrived today August 06, 2014 at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko becoming the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet.  Launched in March 2004, Rosetta had to make three gravity-assist flybys of Earth and one of Mars to help it on course to its rendezvous with the comet. This complex course also allowed Rosetta to pass by asteroids ┼áteins and Lutetia, obtaining unprecedented views and scientific data on these two objects. 

Rosetta woke up from deep space hibernation on 20 January 2014, nine million kilometres from comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Following wake-up, the orbiter’s 11 science instruments and 10 lander instruments were reactivated for science observations. Ten orbital correction manoeuvres were carried out between 7 May and 6 August, reducing the spacecraft’s velocity with respect to the comet from 775 m/s to 1 m/s, equivalent to walking pace. All this in preparation for the first landing on a comet expected on November.

Below you can see a high resolution (5.3 meters per pixel) image of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by OSIRIS/ROSETTA on August 3, 2014 (so 3 days before entering orbit) from a distance of 285 kilometers. Click on the image for a bigger version.


Copyright: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Below here's another image , showing the "other" side of the comet 67P. The two images are separated by about 4 hours (120 degree comet rotation). Click on the image for a bigger version.


Copyright ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko activity on 2 August 2014. The image below was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS wide-angle camera from a distance of 550 km. The exposure time of the image was 330 seconds and the comet nucleus is saturated to bring out the detail of the comet activity. Note there is a ghost image to the right. The image resolution is 55 metres per pixel. Click on the image for a bigger version.

Copyright ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

The animation below comprises 101 images acquired by the Navigation Camera on board ESA's Rosetta spacecraft as it approached comet 67P/C-G in August 2014. The first image was taken on 1 August at 11:07 UTC (12:07 CEST), at a distance of 832 km. The last image was taken 6 August at 06:07 UTC (08:07 CEST) at a distance of 110 km. Click here or on the thumbnail before for a bigger version.

 Navigation Camera on board ESA's Rosetta spacecraft as it approached comet 67P/C-G in August 2014 photo NavCam_animation_6_August_node_full_image_2_zpsd78d86fd.gif


According to the official ESA press release
Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and Rosetta now lie 405 million kilometres from Earth, about half way between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, rushing towards the inner Solar System at nearly 55 000 kilometres per hour.  Today, Rosetta is just 100 km from the comet’s surface, but it will edge closer still. Over the next six weeks, it will describe two triangular-shaped trajectories in front of the comet, first at a distance of 100 km and then at 50 km. At the same time, more of the suite of instruments will provide a detailed scientific study of the comet, scrutinising the surface for a target site for the Philae lander. Eventually, Rosetta will attempt a close, near-circular orbit at 30 km and, depending on the activity of the comet, perhaps come even closer. As many as five possible landing sites will be identified by late August, before the primary site is identified in mid-September. The final timeline for the sequence of events for deploying Philae – currently expected for 11 November – will be confirmed by the middle of October. After landing, Rosetta will continue to accompany the comet until its closest approach to the Sun in August 2015 and beyond, watching its behaviour from close quarters to give us a unique insight and realtime experience of how a comet works as it hurtles around the Sun


In November 2014, a small lander (named Philae) will leave the spacecraft and will harpoon itself to the surface of the comet 67P.



Below you can find an image of comet 67P taken by our team (Nick Howes, Giovanni Sostero, Alison Tripp and Ernesto Guido) on 25 April 2012, when comet was at roughly 5.683 AU from the Sun (so close to its aphelion) and of magnitude ~22. For more info on that imaging session and also for our image of this comet dated back to 2010 click here & here.


This blog will be updated as soon as new images and news will arrive so stay tuned!


UPDATE - August 06, 2014 @13:00UT

Stunning close up detail focusing on a smooth region on the ‘base’ of the ‘body’ section of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera and downloaded today, 6 August. The image clearly shows a range of features, including boulders, craters and steep cliffs. The image was taken from a distance of 130 km and the image resolution is 2.4 metres per pixel. Click on the image for a bigger version.


Copyright ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

While below there is a close-up detail of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera and downloaded today, 6 August. The image shows the comet’s ‘head’ at the left of the frame, which is casting shadow onto the ‘neck’ and ‘body’ to the right. The image was taken from a distance of 120 km and the image resolution is 2.2 metres per pixel. Click on the image for a bigger version.


Copyright ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

UPDATE - August 06, 2014 @18:00UT

The View From Rosetta - Animation of comet 67P recorded by Rosetta's navigational camera. (Credit: European Space Agency/BBC News). Click here or on the thumbnail below for a bigger version.

Comet 67P - Credit: European Space Agency/BBC News photo rosetta-comet-67p-orbit-525_zpsc9ba2c58.gif

UPDATE - August 08, 2014 @16:00UT

Full-frame NAVCAM image taken on 5 August 2014 from a distance of about 145 km from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Click on the image for a bigger version.

Credits: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Full-frame NAVCAM image taken on 7 August 2014 from a distance of about 83 km from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Click on the image for a bigger version.

Credits: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

An extract from the last post on Rosetta blog:

"Now that comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimernko is within our reach, Rosetta’s mass spectrometer COSIMA, managed by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, is beginning to reach for cometary dust. Literally. On Sunday 10 August 2014, COSIMA will expose its first of 24 targetholders aiming to collect single dust particles. This might take a while. After all, from dust particle modeling, 67P/C-G’s coma is still comparable to a high-quality cleanroom. But, as 67P/C-G travels closer to the Sun along its orbit, the comet’s activity will increase and more dust will be within reach. For now, we are planning to keep the target exposed for one month, but checking on a weekly basis if the model predictions are not too low and if we are lucky."

UPDATE - August 23, 2014

The image below shows Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko imaged by Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow angle camera on 7 August from a distance of 104 km. "While the comet’s head (in the top half of the image) is covered with parallel linear features, the neck displays scattered boulders on a smooth underground. In comparison, the comet’s body (lower half of the image) seems to have much more jagged features.". Click on the image for a bigger version.

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

A 2 day meeting started today at @CNES_France where scientists and engineers (the Landing Site Selection Group (LSSG)) will select 5 possible landing sites for Philae that will be announced on Monday. Final decision will be confirmed by the middle of October. To see how many factors influence the decision for the landing site see this blog post on Rosetta website.

According to Rosetta blog: "The Global Mapping phase runs 10 September to 7 October, and will see Rosetta going down to just 29 km distance, a point when we expect the spacecraft to become actively captured by the comet’s gravity, and its orbit to become circular. The aim is to get down to 19km height, keeping Rosetta on the Sunlit side or orbiting on the terminator line."

Below you can see the most recent image released by Rosetta taken by its navigation camera (NAVCAM) on 22 August 2014 at a distance of about 64 km from comet 67P. Click on the image for a bigger version.

Credits: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM


Below a Rosetta-67P related cartoon by Stephen Collins for the The Guardian . Click on the image for a bigger version.

Credits: Stephen Collins


by Ernesto Guido

Sunday, July 13, 2014

New Comet: C/2014 N3 (NEOWISE)

Cbet nr. 3921, issued on 2014, July 13, announces the discovery of a comet (~ magnitude 17) by the  Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (or NEOWISE; formerly the WISE satellite) team on images taken with the NEOWISE satellite on 2014, July 04.5. The new comet has been designated C/2014 N3 (NEOWISE).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 10 unfiltered exposures, 60-sec each, obtained remotely on 2014, July 09.6 from Q62 (iTelescope network - Siding Spring) through a 0.50-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD + focal reducer, shows that this object is a comet: coma about 15" in diameter elongated toward PA 200 (the comet was about +21 degree above the horizon at the moment of the imaging session).

Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)


M.P.E.C. 2014-N72 assigns the following parabolic orbital elements to comet C/2014 N3: T 2015 Mar. 15.67; e= 1.0; Peri. = 354.49; q = 3.84;  Incl.= 61.73

UPDATE - July 15, 2014

In the image below you can see comet C/2014 N3 on the infrared discovery frame taken by NEOWISE and (on the right) a follow-up image taken by J. Masiero through the 8 meter GEMINI telescope in Chile. (More info on the caption. Click on the image for a bigger version).

Credit: A. Mainzer

by Ernesto Guido, Nick Howes & Martino Nicolini

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Close Approach of PHA Asteroid 2014 MF6

The asteroid 2014 MF6 was discovered (at magnitude ~17.0) on 2014, June 23.3 by Catalina Sky Survey (MPC code 703) with a 0.68-m Schmidt + CCD.

According to the preliminay orbit, 2014 MF6 is an Apollo type asteroid. This class of asteroids are defined by having semi-major axes greater than that of the Earth (> 1 AU) but perihelion distances less than the Earth's aphelion distance (q < 1.017 AU). It is also flagged as a "Potentially Hazardous Asteroid". PHA are asteroids larger than approximately 100m that might have threatening close approaches to the Earth (they can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU).

2014 MF6 has an estimated size of 190 m - 420 m (based on the object's absolute magnitude H=20.7) and it will have a close approach with Earth at about 9.1 LD (Lunar Distances = ~384,000 kilometers) or 0.0233 AU (1 AU = ~150 million kilometers) at 1939 UT on 2014, July 09. This asteroid will reach the peak magnitude ~15.3 on the period from 06 to 09 July 2014.

We performed some follow-up measurements of this object on 2014, July 09.4, remotely from the Q62 iTelescope network (Siding Spring, AU) through a 0.50-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD + focal reducer). Below you can see our image taken with the asteroid at magnitude ~15.3 and moving at ~ 40.43 "/min.  Click on the image below to see a bigger version. North is up, East is to the left (the asteroid is trailed in the image due to its fast speed).


Below you can see a short animation showing the movement of 2014 MF6 (three consecutive 60-second exposure). Click here or on the thumbnail below to see the animation (East is up, North is to the right):

Close Approach of asteroid 2014 MF6 photo 2014_MF6_09_July_2014_zpsb8d70b94.gif


by Ernesto Guido, Nick Howes & Martino Nicolini

Monday, June 16, 2014

New Comet: P/2014 L2 (NEOWISE)

Cbet nr. 3901, issued on 2014, June 15, announces the discovery of a comet (~ magnitude 16.5) by the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) team on images taken with the NEOWISE satellite on 2014, June 07.4. The new comet has been designated P/2014 L2 (NEOWISE).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 12 unfiltered exposures, 60-sec each, obtained remotely on 2014, June 15.4 from H06 (iTelescope network, New Mexico) through a 0.50-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD + f/4.5 focal reducer, shows that this object is a comet with a tail nearly 15" long in PA 250 with coma about 8" in diameter.

Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)


M.P.E.C. 2014-L61 assigns the following preliminary elliptical orbital elements to comet P/2014 L2: T 2014 Aug. 4.59; e= 0.43; Peri. = 190.6; q = 2.11;  Incl.= 5.20

by Ernesto Guido, Nick Howes & Martino Nicolini

Monday, June 9, 2014

Update on comet C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS)

C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) is a comet discovered on 17 May 2012 (see CBET circular 3112 & MPEC 2012-K36) in two r-band 40-s exposures taken with the 1.8-m Pan-STARRS 1 telescope at Haleakala (MPC code F51). 

The comet is currently at visual magnitude ~ 8.5 and it will reach the perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) on 27 August 2014 at a distance of 1.05 AU (1 AU = ~150 million kilometers) from the Sun. Comet C/2012 K1 is expected to brighten up to mag ~6-7 in mid-October 2014 (with an elongation of about 75-80 degree from the Sun). Below you can see the light curve (click on it for a bigger version).

Credit: Seiichi Yoshida

While below you can find our most recent image of this comet obtained on 03 June 2014 through the 2-meter Liverpool Telescope. Click on the image for a bigger version. 




by Ernesto Guido, Nick Howes & Martino Nicolini

Saturday, May 24, 2014

PHA Asteroid 2014 KP4

The MPEC 2014-K35 issued on May 23, 2014 announced the discovery of a new PHA asteroid officially designated 2014 KP4. This asteroid (~ magnitude 16) was discovered by C. Jacques, E. Pimentel & J. Barros through a 0.20-m f/2.2 Schmidt-Cassegrain + CCD telescope of SONEAR Observatory (MPC code Y00), on images obtained on May 20.2, 2014.

According to the preliminay orbit, 2014 KP4 is an Apollo type asteroid. This class of asteroids are defined by having semi-major axes greater than that of the Earth (> 1 AU) but perihelion distances less than the Earth's aphelion distance (q < 1.017 AU). It is also flagged as a "Potentially Hazardous Asteroid". PHA are asteroids larger than approximately 100m that might have threatening close approaches to the Earth (they can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU).

2014 KP4 had a close approach with Earth on May 11, 2014 at rougly 26.2 LD (Lunar Distances = ~384,000 kilometers) or 0.0673 AU (1 AU = ~150 million kilometers).

We performed some follow-up measurements of this object on 2014, May 20.6, remotely from the Q62 iTelescope network (Siding Spring) through a 0.50-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD + focal reducer. Below you can see an animation showing the fast movement (the object was moving at 6.5 "/min) of 2014 KP4 on the the sky on May 20, 2014. Each frame is a single 15-second exposure. Click on the thumbnail below to see the animation (East is up, North is to the right):

Asteroid 2014 KP4 - Animation 20 May 2014 photo ezgif-save_zps6493d724.gif


Below you can see the discovery images of 2014 KP4 by SONEAR survey. 

Credit: SONEAR Observatory


by Ernesto Guido, Nick Howes & Martino Nicolini