Space

March 28, 2014

NASA’s Hubble space telescope spots Mars-bound comet sprout multiple jets

NASA released an image March 27 of a comet that, on Oct. 19, will pass within 84,000 miles of Mars – less than half the distance between Earth and our moon.

The image on the left, captured March 11 by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, shows comet C/2013 A1, also called Siding Spring, at a distance of 353 million miles from Earth. Hubble can’t see Siding Spring’s icy nucleus because of its diminutive size. The nucleus is surrounded by a glowing dust cloud, or COMA, that measures roughly 12,000 miles across.

The right image shows the comet after image processing techniques were applied to remove the hazy glow of the coma revealing what appear to be two jets of dust coming off the location of the nucleus in opposite directions. This observation should allow astronomers to measure the direction of the nucleus’s pole, and axis of rotation.

Hubble also observed Siding Spring on Jan. 21 as Earth was crossing its orbital plane, which is the path the comet takes as it orbits the sun. This positioning of the two bodies allowed astronomers to determine the speed of the dust coming off the nucleus.

“This is critical information that we need to determine whether, and to what degree, dust grains in the coma of the comet will impact Mars and spacecraft in the vicinity of Mars,” said Jian-Yang Li of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona.
Discovered in January 2013 by Robert H. McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory, the comet is falling toward the sun along a roughly 1 million year orbit and is now within the radius of Jupiter’s orbit. The comet will make its closest approach to our sun on Oct. 25, at a distance of 130 million miles ñ well outside of Earth’s orbit. The comet is not expected to become bright enough to be seen by the naked eye.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines November 17, 2014

News: Fight over A-10 re-opens Hill, Air Force divide - After a relatively quiet summer, the battle for the future of the A-10 Warthog exploded in the last two weeks, reopening deep fissures between Congress and the Air Force that seem to show the two sides at a total stalemate. Chances for sequester relief fade as...
 
 

News Briefs Nov, 17, 2014

Second stealthy destroyer starting to take shape The second of three stealthy destroyers under construction in Maine is starting to take shape. The Navy says it has completed the hoisting of the 1,000-ton composite deckhouse onto the 610-foot hull of the future USS Michael Monsoor. It took four cranes to complete the job Nov. 14....
 
 
NASA photograph by Jim Yungel

NASA DC-8 continues west Antarctic ice study

NASA photograph by Jim Yungel The Thurston Island calving front off of western Antarctica as seen from the window of NASA’s DC-8 flying observatory Nov. 5, 2014. NASA’s DC-8 flying laboratory has two weeks of suppor...
 

 
NASA photograph by Emmett Given

NASA opens registration for 2015 Exploration Rover Challenge

NASA photograph by Emmett Given Pedaling across a simulated alien landscape of rock, craters and shifting sand is one of the nearly 90 teams of high school, college and university students from across the United States and arou...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph

Lockheed Martin begins final assembly of NASA’s next Mars lander

Lockheed Martin photograph Technicians in a Lockheed Martin clean room prepare NASA’s InSight Mars lander for propulsion proof and leak testing on Oct. 31, 2014. Following the test, the lander was moved to another clean room ...
 
 
Air Force photograph by Isaac Cruz

‘Batman’ fix to sustain C-5s for decades, saving millions

Robins Air Force Base, Ga., has hit another milestone by being the first to complete a new major structural repair on a C-5M which will bring in millions of dollars in revenue and sustain the Air Force’s fleet for decades...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>