After the meeting of the ESA Council at Ministerial Level last weekend, ESA Director General Jan Woerner made the following statement: There was one aspect which detracted from the otherwise positive mood: AIM (short for Asteroid Impact Mission) failed to get the financial support it needed. AIM had been intended as a learning exercise that would form part of a joint NASA-ESA activity to evaluate the technical possibilities of changing the flight path of a tiny asteroid moon. It was an example of ESA at its absolute best: daring, innovative and ambitious all at once. Although, in the beginning, very promising subscriptions were given, the withdrawal of the biggest single amount at the very last minute proved devastating to an important mission with great potential for worldwide visibility. Following on from Rosetta, AIM had the ability to inspire the public by investigating how to deal with an object hurtling towards the Earth. The overall mission costs were estimated to be just about 2.5% of the overall subscriptions; the direct needs were only 1%. Ultimately – and this I very much regret – the difficult discussions among member states and a focus on direct applications and short-term return led inevitably to a situation in which I had no choice but to announce the proposal’s cancellation. The door was slammed shut but as I am convinced of the necessity of such a project, I will try to find a way back in through a window again. It is simply too important.
Rosetta's OSIRIS camera team has launched a new website to showcase their recent images of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The high-resolution images, taken either with the narrow- or wide-angle scientific imaging camera, will show the comet as recently as the day before. They will be posted to a dedicated website but followers can also subscribe to a mailing list to receive the images directly via email. The cadence of the images released will depend on the scientific operations of the spacecraft and in particular on the as-run OSIRIS observations on any given day, along with the availability of images downloaded from the spacecraft. A minimum of an image per week should be expected, up to an image a day if they are taken daily. "Following perihelion and a far excursion, we are now back at closer distances - about 100 km - to the comet, providing a view similar to that when we first arrived on 6 August 2014," says Holger Sierks, principal investigator for the camera at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany. "We'd like to share this view with the community and the general public, in near-real time, as we re-approach and eventually descend to the surface of the comet." The images will be released by a robotic system in JPG format, raw or calibrated as available, following a brief pre-selection by OSIRIS scientists. Basic 'metadata' stating the date, time, distance to the comet and the Sun, and the resolution of the image will be included with each. There will not be a detailed scientific description of the images because the goal is to provide up-to-date 'postcards' of the comet. Traditional image releases with scientific interpretation will still be made, separately, in the usual way. The images will also be added to our ESA galleries and shared on our Rosetta social media channels. In addition, we plan to showcase them in a weekly blog post alongside our regular navigation camera (NavCam) CometWatch feature. "This new initiative is a welcome addition to our long-established NavCam CometWatch releases, and gives us another way to enjoy riding along with Rosetta as it follows the comet through the Solar System," notes Patrick Martin, ESA's Rosetta mission manager. "Now that we're closer to the comet again we're looking forward to seeing its surface in more detail. We're also looking forward to sharing a fantastic view as Rosetta descends to the surface of the comet next September," says Matt Taylor, ESA's Rosetta project scientist.
Both major assemblies (Base and optical tube) have now been wrapped, and are in storage at Laminating Technologies. They will remain in "care and preservation" until the dome is ready.
Since the weather has put a stop to groundwork for the dome, attention has turned to the telescope itself.
Powys County Council has granted us planning permission to build the dome for the 24" Schmidt Camera.
Well, the telescope is in Wales and secure. Here’s how it happened.