Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine Day - In outer space

Although no one had ever thought of celebrating the Valentine Day out there in the space, but this year NASA is planning such a “Astronomical Valentine Date.”  As per reports issued by NASA, its Stardust-NExT spacecraft is nearing a celestial date with comet Tempel 1 at approximately 8:37 p.m. PST on Feb. 14. Thus this would be the first astronomical valentine day ever celebrated in the outer space. I only wished that the spacecraft carried a couple to add glamour to the occasion.
The NASA’s mission will allow scientists for the first time to look for changes on a comet's surface that occurred following an orbit around the sun. The spacecraft is likely to take high-resolution images during the encounter, and will attempt to measure the composition, distribution, and flux of dust emitted into the coma, or material surrounding the comet's nucleus. Data from the mission will provide important new information on how Jupiter-family comets evolved and formed.
When making its celestial Valentine date, the Stardust-NExT spacecraft will be some 336 million kilometers (209 million miles) away from Earth, The space craft will be almost on the exact opposite side of the solar system at the time of the encounter. During the flyby, the spacecraft will take 72 images and store them in an onboard computer.
It may be noted that Stardust-NExT spacecraft has travelled almost 6 billion kilometers in space since it was launched in 1999 and has been there all by itself for almost 12 long years now. So best of luck Stardust-NExT and have a happy Valentine Day.
Resource and photo (Stardust-NExT) Courtesy: NASA
Related link: Valentine Day (The Fire Within)