Monday, 15 September 2014

Space in Images - 2014 - 09 - Philae’s primary landing site

Philae’s primary landing site will target Site J, the centre of which
is indicated by the cross in this OSIRIS narrow-angle image.

J is located on the head of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and is
close to the candidate site B, the large depression to the right of the

Site J offers the minimum risk to the lander in comparison
to the other candidate sites, and is also scientifically interesting,
with signs of activity nearby. At Site J, the majority of slopes are
less than 30ยบ relative to the local vertical, reducing the chances of
Philae toppling over during touchdown. Site J also appears to have
relatively few boulders and receives sufficient daily illumination to
recharge Philae and continue science operations on the surface beyond
the initial battery-powered phase.

Full story: 'J' marks the spot for Rosetta's lander

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Rosetta spacecraft selfie with comet

Here is a Rosetta ‘selfie’ with comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in
background. It was taken by the CIVA camera – short for Comet Infrared
and Visible Analyser – onboard the Philae Lander. This is the same
camera that will be acquiring images from the surface of the comet
itself, when the Philae lander sets down on the comet in November.

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko was 50 kilometers / 31 miles away at the time of this image.

Two frames were taken and merged due to the high contrast.

Rosetta isn’t the first otherworldly object to get in on the earthly trend of selfies. NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover caught one, too, earlier this year.

Rosetta spacecraft selfie with comet | Science Wire | EarthSky

Friday, 29 August 2014

Naval Hill Planetarium

The first digital planetarium in sub-Saharan Africa – situated on Naval Hill, right here in Bloemfontein – opened on 1 November 2013! The University of the Free State (UFS) is managing this facility.

Adults: R50
Learners: R30
Students (with valid student card): R30
Pensioners: R30
Tariffs and dates for group reservations are available on request.

Buy tickets at:
  • The Planetarium before shows (but keep in mind that the Planetarium is regularly full);
  • Computicket at all Checkers, Shoprite, House and Home and Checkers Hyper shops;
  • Computicket’s enquiry centre (08619158000); or
  • Online at (look for ‘planetarium’); 
  • Online mobi with mobile devices (look for ‘planetarium’).
Please direct enquiries via email to Yolandie Loots at  or contact her on 051 401 9751.

Monday, 18 August 2014

C/2013 V5 (Oukaimeden) visible in South Africa

 Click to enlarge

 Skytools 3 information (18 August 2014)

Telescope: SkyQuest XT10 Dob. It is magnitude 9 with a diameter of 2.7'.

In the following 30 days this object is obvious visually from August 20 on, with the best view coming on September 15. During this period it will brighten rapidly and will reach peak altitude of 34° on September 2.

C/2013 V5 (Oukaimeden) will reach perihelion in late September. Also in late September this comet will pass within 0.6 AU of the earth. It is predicted to reach maximum brightness of magnitude 5 in mid September. The best visibility from Bloemfontein, Boyden, ZA near maximum brightness is predicted to be in mid September when it will be approximately magnitude 5. On September 16 this comet will be moving quickly across the sky at a peak rate of 13.8 "/min. Note that the magnitude and visibility of a comet can be very unpredictable.

Current Status

Earth Distance: 1.3 AU
Sun Distance: 1.0 AU
Elongation:  51°
Tail Position Angle: 259°
Tail Forshortening: 24%
Actual Coma Diameter: 160000 km
DC:  5
Total motion: 1.68 "/min
   RA:  1.30 "/min
   Dec: -1.09 "/min

Monday, 11 August 2014

Rosetta arrives at comet destination

6 August 2014
After a decade-long journey chasing its target, ESA’s Rosetta has today become the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet, opening a new chapter in Solar System exploration.
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.
The comet is in an elliptical 6.5-year orbit that takes it from beyond Jupiter at its furthest point, to between the orbits of Mars and Earth at its closest to the Sun. Rosetta will accompany it for over a year as they swing around the Sun and back out towards Jupiter again.
Comets are considered to be primitive building blocks of the Solar System and may have helped to ‘seed’ Earth with water, perhaps even the ingredients for life. But many fundamental questions about these enigmatic objects remain, and through a comprehensive,in situstudy of the comet, Rosetta aims to unlock the secrets within.

Read more

More images

Saturday, 9 August 2014

10 August 2014 - The largest Full Moon for the Year

Image of the Moon taken over Table Mountain, credit: Dr Steve Potter, SAAO.

Source: SAAO

Did you know that the Moon travels around the Earth in an oval shaped or elliptical orbit rather than a circular one? The average distance between the Earth and Moon is 384,400 km. However, because of its elliptical path, the distance to the Moon varies depending on where it is in its orbit around Earth. At its closest point or perigee, the Moon is about 50,000 km closer to Earth than at its most distant point (called apogee).

Full Moons that occur when the Moon is close to or at perigee are called Supermoons and they appear slightly larger and brighter than usual. There is nothing magical about a Supermoon, it is simply a coincidence that full moon has occured when the Moon is near to its closest point to Earth. Just like an aeroplane looks larger the closer it is, so does the Moon.


Thursday, 7 August 2014

Meteorites: A Southern African Perspective

Meteorites are the remnants of meteors from outer space that have survived the corridor of fire through Earth's atmosphere and landed on our planet. Rare, and bearing secrets about the formation of our Universe, these 'treasures from space' have fascinated people ever since they were first identified in the late 18th century as extraterrestrial arrivals.

This jam-packed book by enthusiast and collector Ronnie McKenzie introduces the topic in straightforward language and is richly illustrated with some 200 photographs and diagrams. It discusses how to identify meteorites, where they come from and where they have landed on Earth, the many different types, and how to set about collecting them. It also dispels some of the myths about these stones, and presents some infamous meteorite scams.

A handy basic guide for those new to the topic, and for anyone interested in entering the field of meteorite collecting.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Deep-Sky Hunter Star Atlas

"Deep Sky hunter" is a printable deep sky atlas, designed for serious deep sky observers. It features stars down to 10.2m and DSO down to 14.0m.

This is my second release of a deep sky atlas. It is much more detailed, and covers entire sky with 101 portrait oriented pages. Manual post-editing was performed in order to ensure readable and non-cluttered charts. In addition, the atlas features 8 pages with 21 supplement "zoom" charts of galaxy clusters and densly populated areas, and indications of over 500 best objects (Messier, Caldwell, Herschel 400, SAC's best).
I designed this atlas with A3 page size in mind, however you may find it usable on A4 as well. In terms of scale and amount of detail - "DeepSky Hunter" falls between Sky Atlas 2000 and Uranometria 2000.
- Michael Vlasov

Here you can see a comparison with other atlases.

- Print back to back on light 200gram carton (A3).
- It is searchable in Adobe Pdf Reader on your computer.  (Search the constellation or the NGC, etc.)
(Hannes Pieterse)

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Rosetta's comet rendezvous

On 6 August, after a decade-long journey through space, ESA’s Rosetta will become the first spacecraft in history to rendezvous with a comet. Members of the media are invited to join ESA at its European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, to mark this momentous occasion.

Since its launch from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on 2 March 2004, Rosetta has travelled more than six billion kilometres, passing by Earth three times and Mars once, and flying past two asteroids.

For the most distant part of the journey, when it travelled out to the orbit of Jupiter, Rosetta was put into deep-space hibernation for 31 months, waking up on 20 January 2014 for the final leg of its epic journey to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
Now, with less than 10 000 km to go, Rosetta is preparing to arrive at its destination.