Wednesday is astronomy day!

Good morning Philae, so long LightSail! Also: Mars scientists emerge from isolation…

After seven months of silence, Philae has finally woken up and phoned home. The lander sent an 85-second transmission to scientists on the Rosetta mission, letting them know it was active and ready to get to work. Mission scientists have been awaiting contact from Philae since March, when it went into hibernation, not longer after touching down. Philae may have been awake for a few days, so scientists are awaiting data that might tell us what it’s been up to.

In sadder news, prototype cubesat LightSail has finished it’s mission, and burned up in the atmosphere on it’s final descent home, somewhere near the South Atlantic. The solar sail was in low orbit for 25 days; Orbital models show that reentry likely occurred around 1:23 pm EDT. The mission was a test run for a much bigger mission, due to take place in 2016: soon we will have solar sail technology for space exploration!

LightSail in Earth orbit: When its solar sails are unfurled, LightSail may be visible to observers on the ground. Image Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society
LightSail in Earth orbit: When its solar sails are unfurled, LightSail may be visible to observers on the ground. Image Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society

Scientists in Hawaii have emerged from a very different kind of sabbatical: 8 months in an isolated dome, FOR SCIENCE! The researchers, led by a team from the University of Hawaii, were finding out what emotional effect living in isolation with their space team would have on them, mimicking life on a Mars manned mission. Their main stress-busters were group yoga and a solar powered treadmill, but separation from loved ones was still incredibly hard. That, and the limited shower access.

β€œTo be able to just submerge myself in water for as long as I want, to feel the sun, will be amazing,” Jocelyn Dunn, a doctoral candidate at Purdue University said. β€œI feel like a ghost.”

The dome in Hawaii. Image Credit: Neil Scheibelhut/University of Hawaii at Manoa via AP
The dome in Hawaii: researchers had to don space suits if they wanted to leave the habitat, to mimic practices on mission. Image Credit: Neil Scheibelhut/University of Hawaii at Manoa via AP

Image Credit: “Rosetta’s Philae on Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko” by DLR, CC-BY 3.0.

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