The rubber ducky comet blasted a magnetic path through space

Rosetta's comet sent a magnetic shock wave screaming out in front of it, blazing a trail through the stellar wind. And scientists just found it. Astrophysicists had been looking for evidence of such a wave, called a bow shock, around Comet 67p, the "rubber ducky" comet that the European Space Agency (ESA) probe Rosetta visited … Continue reading “The rubber ducky comet blasted a magnetic path through space”

Rosetta's comet sent a magnetic shock wave screaming out in front of it, blazing a trail through the stellar wind. And scientists just found it.

Astrophysicists had been looking for evidence of such a wave, called a bow shock, around Comet 67p, the "rubber ducky" comet that the European Space Agency (ESA) probe Rosetta visited in 2016. Other comets, like Halley's Comet, have bow shocks, after all, so why not 67p?

A bow shock is created at the boundary between a comet's magnetic field and the inrushing stellar wind and other energized particles in space. But when researchers sifted through data from the period when Rosetta orbited 67p, Rosetta initially seemed not to have found a bow shock around its comet.

Now, in a paper published Nov. 6 in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, researchers report that Comet 67p did have a bow shock after all. It was just a faint, asymmetrical, baby bow shock that moved in unexpected ways, making it initially hard to spot in data Rosetta sent home. [Rosetta Probe Gets Rare Close-Up of Comet Eruption (Video)]

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  • "We looked for a classical bow shock in the kind of area we'd expect to find one, far away from the comet's nucleus, but didn't find any, so we originally reached the conclusion that Rosetta had failed to spot any kind of shock," Herbert Gunell of the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy and Umeå University in Sweden, a co-author on the paper, said in a statement.

    But a more-careful analysis of the data revealed that Rosetta passed through a magnetically excited region during two periods, and the electrons and protons surrounding it it reacted to the boundary.

    The first period occurred just as the comet began its closest approach to the sun, and the second occurred as the comet moved away from the sun.

    This means that "Rosetta observed a cometary bow shock in its infancy, a stage in its development not previously accessible [to astronomers]," the researchers wrote in the study.

    After that point, as 67p neared the sun, the bow shock moved farther away from the comet, past the zone of Rosetta's orbit. But Rosetta saw sights never observed before: a bow shock flickering to life and its last moments before it died.

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    Originally published on Live Science.

    NASA makes amazing discovery on asteroid Bennu

    Scientists have made a fascinating discovery on asteroid Bennu thanks to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

    Recently analyzed data from the probe has identified water locked inside the asteroid’s clay, the space agency has announced. The spacecraft’s two spectrometers revealed the presence of “hydroxyls,” which are molecules containing oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded together.

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    “While Bennu itself is too small to have ever hosted liquid water, the finding does indicate that liquid water was present at some time on Bennu’s parent body, a much larger asteroid,” said NASA in a statement.

    The asteroid may provide answers to the origin of our solar system, according to the space agency.

    “The presence of hydrated minerals across the asteroid confirms that Bennu, a remnant from early in the formation of the solar system, is an excellent specimen for the OSIRIS-REx mission to study the composition of primitive volatiles and organics,” said Amy Simon, OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) deputy instrument scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in the statement. “When samples of this material are returned by the mission to Earth in 2023, scientists will receive a treasure trove of new information about the history and evolution of our solar system.”

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    OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, reached its orbit at asteroid Bennu last week after traveling more than 1 billion miles through space. It launched in September 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

    The spacecraft will spend almost a year surveying the space rock from orbit. The probe is scheduled to briefly touch the asteroid with a robotic arm in July 2020 and retrieve a sample that will be returned to Earth in September 2023.

    This is a busy time for NASA. The space agency’s InSight lander landed successfully on the surface of Mars last month, ending a journey that lasted six months and completed more than 300 million miles. The space agency recently released the first-ever audio recording from the surface of the Red Planet.

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    NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reaches asteroid Bennu after epic journey

    NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reached asteroid Bennu on Monday after traveling more than 1 billion miles through space.

    The asteroid may provide answers to the origin of our solar system, according to NASA.

    With Bennu more than 80 million miles away, it took seven minutes for word to get from the spacecraft to flight controllers at Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colo. The company built the spacecraft there. “We have arrived!” announced Lockheed Martin Communications Engineer Javier Cerna.

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    Flight controllers applauded and exchanged high-fives once confirmation came through — exactly one week after NASA landed a spacecraft on Mars.

    OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, launched in September 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

    The spacecraft will now spend almost a year surveying the space rock from orbit. The probe is scheduled to briefly touch the asteroid with a robotic arm in July 2020 and retrieve a sample that will be returned to Earth in September 2023.

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    Other countries are also ramping up their efforts to study asteroids. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Hayabusa 2 spacecraft recently lowered two small rovers onto a distant asteroid. Hayabusa 2 arrived at Ryugu on June 27, 2018, when the asteroid was almost 170 million miles from Earth. The spacecraft, which traveled almost 2 billion miles to reach the space rock, is expected to leave Ryugu at the end of 2019 and return to Earth around the end of 2020.

    This is a busy time for NASA. On Monday, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying three astronauts, including one American, successfully docked with the International Space Station. Monday’s launch from Kazakhstan is the first successful manned mission to the space lab since an aborted Soyuz launch in October.

    The agency’s InSight lander landed successfully on the surface of Mars last week, ending a journey that lasted six months and completed more than 300 million miles.

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    On Dec. 7, the first scientific data from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will be downloaded to Earth via the Deep Space Network. The probe blasted off on its $1.5 billion mission to the star in the early hours of Aug. 12, 2018.

    The Associated Press contributed to this article. Fox News’ Jennifer Earl and Chris Ciaccia contributed to this article.

    Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

    Curiosity rover spots ‘shiny’ object on Mars and NASA isn’t sure what it is

    Last month marked a new pinnacle for space exploration, as the InSight lander became NASA's first probe to reach Mars and land successfully since the Curiosity rover did in 2012.

    But the Curiosity is not going quietly into the night, letting its new brother steal all the attention — the seven-year-old rover has detected a "shiny" object which may indeed be a meteorite.

    In a mission update posted on Nov. 28, NASA noted Curiosity is drilling at the Highfield site and will give a further look at four samples, including one known as "Little Colonsay" because of its startling looks.

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    "The planning team thinks it might be a meteorite because it is so shiny," NASA wrote in the mission update. "But looks can deceive, and proof will only come from the chemistry."

    The government space agency said it missed "Little Colonsay" in a previous attempt and will use that information to try again, using the rover’s ChemCam instrument to confirm the make-up of the object.

    There are three other targets that are getting special attention, including the "Flanders Moss," which NASA said, "shows an interesting, dark colored coating, for which chemistry is required to confirm its nature."

    There are two other targets, known as "Forres" and "Eildon," which Curiosity will further investigate before it leaves the Highfield site.

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    NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft set to reach asteroid Bennu after epic journey

    NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is expected to rendezvous with asteroid Bennu on Monday after traveling more than 1 billion miles through space. The historic expedition will be the first U.S. mission to bring samples from an asteroid back to Earth.

    OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, launched in September 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. After reaching Bennu, the spacecraft will spend almost a year surveying the space rock from orbit. The probe is scheduled to briefly touch the asteroid with a robotic arm in July 2020 and retrieve a sample that will be returned to Earth in September 2023.

    The asteroid, which is reportedly about 80 million miles from Earth, may provide answers to the origin of our solar system. “Asteroids are leftovers formed from the cloud of gas and dust – the solar nebula – that collapsed to form our sun and the planets about 4.5 billion years,” explained NASA in a statement. “As such, they contain the original material from the solar nebula, which can tell us about the conditions of our solar system's birth.”

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    Other countries are also ramping up their efforts to study asteroids. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Hayabusa 2 spacecraft recently lowered two small rovers onto a distant asteroid. Hayabusa 2 arrived at Ryugu on June 27, 2018, when the asteroid was almost 170 million miles from Earth. The spacecraft, which traveled almost 2 billion miles to reach the space rock, is expected to leave Ryugu at the end of 2019 and return to Earth around the end of 2020.

    This "super-resolution” view of asteroid Bennu was created using eight images obtained by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on Oct. 29, 2018, from a distance of about 205 miles. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

    The probe is the successor to JAXA’s Hayabusa, which landed on asteroid Itokawa in November 2005. Despite being dogged with problems, the mission collected a number of asteroid samples, which returned to Earth with Hayabusa in June 2010.

    This is a busy time for NASA. The agency’s InSight lander landed successfully on the surface of Mars earlier this week, ending a journey that lasted six months and more than 300 million miles.

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    On Dec. 7, the first scientific data from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will be downloaded to Earth via the Deep Space Network. The probe blasted off on its $1.5 billion mission to the star in the early hours of Aug. 12, 2018.

    OSIRIS-Rex is expected to reach Bennu around noon EST on Monday.

    The Associated Press contributed to this article. Fox News’ Jennifer Earl and Chris Ciaccia contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers