Astronomy Now Home
Home Magazine Sky Chart Resources Store

On Sale Now!



The April 2014 issue of Astronomy Now is on sale! Order direct from our store (free 1st class post & to UK addresses). The Astronomy Now iPad/iPhone editions are now available worldwide in the iTunes store.



Top Stories



Earthshine used to test life detection method
...By imagining the Earth as an exoplanet, scientists observing our planet's reflected light on the Moon with ESO's Very Large Telescope have demonstrated a way to detect life on other worlds...
  READ MORE

Solid buckyballs discovered in space
...Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have detected a particular type of molecule, given the nickname “buckyball”, in a solid form for the first time...
  READ MORE

Steamy water-world gets the Hubble treatment
...Hubble Space Telescope observations of a 7 Earth-mass planet find an unusual water-rich world swathed in a thick, steamy atmosphere...
  READ MORE








Hayabusa on course for Australia landing zone
BY STEPHEN CLARK
SPACEFLIGHT NOW
Posted: 10 June 2010


Bookmark and Share

Five days before it will fall into the Australian outback, Japan's returning Hayabusa asteroid mission finished targeting the landing site Tuesday in a final planned ion engine burn.


Credit: JAXA
 
Hayabusa's ion engine fired for two-and-a-half hours yesterday to optimize its trajectory, ensuring the spacecraft releases a diminutive return capsule exactly on course for landing in the Woomera test range in South Australia.

The capsule is still expected to touch down under a parachute around 1400 GMT (10 a.m. EDT) Sunday. It will be just before midnight in Australia.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency says Hayabusa is now traveling about 1.2 million miles from Earth, nearly five times the distance of the moon.

A previous trajectory correction burn ended Saturday to bend Hayabusa's future path from an imaginary point 200 kilometers, or 120 miles, above Earth toward Australia.

Tuesday's maneuver was likely the last time Hayabusa's ion propulsion system will be fired. The highly-efficient system, which consumes ionized xenon gas, has amassed 40,000 hours of operating time on four engines since the mission launched in May 2003.

The next milestone will be the release of the re-entry craft approximately three hours before landing. The jettison was rescheduled later in the flight due to concerns about the capsule's battery.

Hayabusa's $200 million mission was extended three years after a fuel leak threatened the spacecraft at the end of its visit to asteroid Itokawa, a potato-shaped rock about the size of a city block. Controllers lost contact with the probe and were not able to recover the craft in time to resume the trip home.


Artist's concept of Hayabusa's entry capsule returning to Earth under parachute. Credit: JAXA
 
"We want to heat it up and prevent it from becoming cold, we changed the separation time as late as possible to three hours before entry," said Junichiro Kawaguchi, Hayabusa's project manager.

The 16-inch-wide capsule will be spring-ejected from the Hayabusa mothership in a spinning motion for stability.

A carbon fiber heat shield will protect the craft during its 25,000 mph re-entry. Temperatures around the capsule should reach about 4,900 degrees Fahrenheit, according to JAXA.

The unprotected Hayabusa mothership will plummet into the atmosphere and burn up.

A NASA DC-8 tracking plane will fly under the capsule's re-entry trajectory to document the fiery return.

Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.
 U.K. STORE
 E.U. STORE
 U.S. & WORLDWIDE STORE

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.
 U.K. STORE
 E.U. STORE
 U.S. & WORLDWIDE STORE

3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!
 U.K. STORE
 E.U. STORE
 U.S. & WORLDWIDE STORE


HOME | NEWS ARCHIVE | MAGAZINE | SOLAR SYSTEM | SKY CHART | RESOURCES | STORES | SPACEFLIGHT NOW

© 2014 Pole Star Publications Ltd.