Philae facing eternal hibernation

15 months after Philae made its historic landing on a comet, its legacy is enormous even if Rosetta’s lander is facing eternal hibernation.

Mission teams are now looking ahead to the grand finale: making a controlled impact of the Rosetta orbiter on the comet next September.

Rosetta arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 6 August 2014 and Philae was delivered to the surface on 12 November. After touching down Philae bounced several times and completed 80% of its planned first science sequence before falling into hibernation.  A contact was made with the lander on 13 June and intermittent contacts were made up to 9 July. 

However the results of Philae mission are unique and complement all the science harvested by the orbiter Rosetta who is continuing its quest before being sent directly to the surface of 69P late September.

This A & B Roll recalls what Rosetta and Philae have tought us. It includes interviews with Patrick Martin, Rosetta Mission Manager, ESA (in English and French), Nicolas Altobelli, Rosetta Planetary Scientist, ESA (in English and French) and Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager, DLR (in English and German).

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Todd May Named Marshall Space Flight Center Director

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named Todd May director of the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. May was appointed Marshall deputy director in August 2015 and has been serving as acting director since the Nov. 13, 2015 retirement of Patrick Scheuermann.

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NASA Awards Contract for Information Technology, Multimedia Services at Johnson Space Center

NASA has awarded a contract to MORI Associates, Inc. of Rockville, Maryland, for information technology and external communications services at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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The Unearthly Beauty of the Red Rectangle

Straight lines do not often crop up in space. Whenever they do, they seem somehow incongruous and draw our attention. The Red Rectangle is one such mystery object.

It first caught astronomers’ attention in 1973. The star HD 44179 had been known since 1915 to be double, but it was only when a rocket flight carrying an infrared detector was turned its way that the red rectangle revealed itself.

This image was taken later, in 2007, by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. It focuses on wavelengths of red light, in particular highlighting the emission from hydrogen gas.

This particular emission has been displayed in red. A second, broader range of orange–red light has also been recorded, and, to increase the contrast, this light has been colour coded blue on the image.

The Red Rectangle is some 2300 light-years away in the constellation of Monoceros. It arises because one of the stars in HD 44179 is in the last stages of its life. It has puffed up as the nuclear reactions at its core have faltered, and this has resulted in it shedding its outer layers into space.

Such a cloud of gas is known erroneously as a planetary nebula because Hanoverian astronomer William Herschel thought they look a bit like the pale disc of Uranus, the planet he had discovered.

The X-shape revealed in this image suggests that something is preventing the uniform expansion of the star’s atmosphere. Instead, a thick disc of dust probably surrounds the star, funnelling the outflow into two wide cones. The edges of these show up as the diagonal lines. Thankfully, while that explains the mystery of the object, it does not detract from its unearthly beauty.

This image was first published in June 2010.

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