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We Got Asteroid Dust!

November 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Phew. Gotta clean the dust off my computer. Why does moving have to take up so much time?

Well while I was lugging heavy boxes, there was stuff still going on in the world of science.

Perhaps the thing that got me most excited was that the spacecraft Hayabusa, which I have written about before, has succeeded in its mission!

Hayabusa Spacecraft. Image Credit: JAXA

Japanese researchers announced that the craft has acquired fragments of asteroid dust and returned them safely to Earth.

The craft was launched seven years ago, and in 2005 it landed on asteroid Itokawa. Despite some engine trouble, and the fact that the ball bearing it was supposed to shoot into the asteroid’s surface failed to fire, the craft still managed to collect some fragments of space dust.

Asteroid Itokawa. Courtesy of JAXA

Hayabusa returned to Earth in June of 2010, and we have been waiting anxiously for months to find out if the craft had actually gotten some asteroid bits back for us to study.

How do we know these particles are definitely from the asteroid? The official announcement states:

The mineral phases among the collected 1500 particles, their relative abundance ratios and their elemental compositions agree with a class of primitive meteorite, and they do NOT correspond to any rock type on the surface of the Earth.

This absolutely blows my mind! These guys were able to launch a spacecraft, land it on an asteroid, take off from the asteroid and return to Earth with pieces of it!

I think we all need to take a moment and think what it would be like to be working on this project from the start. Seven long years it took, with obstacles almost every step of the way, and now they find out that it was totally worth it. Kudos these researchers, who are no doubt still out partying in celebration.

UFOs Over Australia

June 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, people thought they were UFOs at least.

The first incident was the Falcon 9 rocket, which was the first test launch of the rocket design by independent space company “Space-X”. The rocket was launched on June 4, 2010, made it into orbit and produced a “lollipop-type spiral” over Australia in the early morning.

Understandably, not many people knew what the lights were, and many UFO reports were made. But the flight path of Falcon 9 matches up perfectly with the time of the sightings.

Sorry folks. No aliens.

Most recently was the re-entry of the Japanese space agency’s craft Hayabusa. The craft ended a 7 year round trip journey to asteroid Ikotawa, and (hopefully!) brought back some asteroid dust for us to study.

The main craft burned up in the atmosphere on June 13, 2010, leaving only the 40 cm wide capsule containing the asteroid sample intact as it landed in the Australian outback.

Hayabusa Sample Pod Landed Safely in the Australian Outback

The re-entry of Hayabusa was captured by an aerial camera mounted on a DC-8 flying over Australia, and produced this stunning video.

Damn Australians get all the good light shows. Maybe I’ll get to see a UFO one day…