NGC 986


A spiral in a furnaceNGC 986 is found in the constellation of Fornax (The Furnace), located in the southern sky. NGC 986 is around 56 million light-years away, and its golden center and barred swirling arms are clearly visible in this image assembled from data captured by Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. (The stars in the upper right appear a little fuzzy because a gap in the Hubble data was filled in with images from ground-based telescopes. The view  is accurate, but the resolution is no match for Hubble.)

Barred spiral galaxies are spiral galaxies with stars forming a central bar-shaped structure. NGC 986 has the characteristic S-shaped structure of this type of galaxy. Young blue stars can be seen dotted through the galaxy’s arms, and the core is also alight with star formation.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

Following the Bouncing Lander


OSIRIS_spots_PhilaeThis mosaic was assembled from a series of images captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera taken over the half-hour spanning the first touchdown of the Philae lander Comet 67P/CG. The time of each of image is marked on the corresponding insets and is in UTC. A comparison of the touchdown area shortly before and after first contact with the surface is shown at the top.

The images were taken with the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera when the spacecraft was 17.5 km from the comet centre, or roughly 15.5 km from the surface. The enlarged insets cover a 17 x 17 m area.

From left to right, the images show Philae descending towards and across the comet before touchdown. The image taken after touchdown, at 15:43 GMT, confirms that the lander was moving east at a speed of about 0.5 m/s as it bounced across the surface of the comet.

Philae‘s actual final landing spot still hasn’t been found. After touching down and bouncing again at 17:25 UTC, it finally landed at 17:32. The mission imaging team believes that by combining the CONSERT ranging data with OSIRIS and navcam images from the orbiter and images from near the surface with data from Philae’s ROLIS and CIVA cameras they will be able to determine the lander’s whereabouts.

Image Credit: ESA

On the Surface of a Comet


Welcome_to_a_cometThe Rosetta mission lander is “safely” on the surface of its comet. One of Philae‘s feet can be seen at the bottom left of this picture of the surface of C67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Philae bounced twice before settling and returning images from the surface, traveling a kilometer or so after ricocheting off of its desired target. A surface panorama suggests that the lander has come to rest tilted and near a shadowing wall. The lander’s solar panels are getting less illumination than if it had landed in the open. The science instruments are working as planned and data is being relayed when the main Rosetta spacecraft is above the lander’s new horizon. However, with good recharging from the solar array, the batteries will not last as long as had been hoped.

Image Credit: ESA

Philae-ing a Comet


Video Credit: ESA