We have not received any of our expected observations of comet ISON due to a spacecraft problem. Communication with the spacecraft was lost some time between August 11 and August 14 (we only talk to the spacecraft about once per week). The last communication was on August 8. After considerable effort, the team on August 30 determined the cause of the problem. The team is now trying to determine how best to try to recover communication.
As long as controllers are communicating with a spacecraft, there is hope. When they are not in communication with a spacecraft, that's pretty scary. Good luck to the Deep Impact team on recovering the spacecraft for a future comet or asteroid encounter. It's a great little mission.
Last week, the team put all of the data from Deep Impact's deep-sky imaging session online, and challenged visitors to see what they could make from it. I made some photos of M51, but there were some challenges.
It's been a very full day at the DPS-EPSC 2011 joint meeting. My day was less full than it might have been, because I overslept and missed most of the morning's session. I really needed the rest though so I think it was probably for the best!
Regular readers of this blog will find the content of today's 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast familiar, because it's an update on what the solar system exploration spacecraft are up to, based on my monthly "what's up" updates.
April 2011 will see MESSENGER begin the science phase of its orbital mission at Mercury, and should, I think, also see the start of Dawn's approach observations of Vesta. At Mars, Opportunity is back on the road again, rolling inexorably toward Endeavour. At Saturn, Cassini will continue its focus on Saturn and Titan science.
Kirby Runyon, a second-year grad student at Temple University, offered to send me some writeups of selected presentations from last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, and I enthusiastically agreed.
Wednesday's sessions at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) on the Deep Impact flyby of Hartley 2 were one of two that I was most looking forward to, the other being this morning's talks on Hayabusa's samples from Itokawa, about which I don't yet have any notes. I am again grateful to Franck Marchis and Andy Rivkin for sending me their notes on Hartley 2.
A press briefing was held at NASA Headquarters this morning to preview the planned February 14 encounter by Stardust with Tempel 1. There aren't often lots of questions from media after these "preview" briefings, but today there were zero. That's not good.