The Cosmic Mirror
By Daniel Fischer
Every page present in
Europe & the U.S.!
Archive | Index
Ahead | Awards

The latest issue!
Also check out Space Today, Spacef. Now, SpaceRef!
A German companion - only available here!
Current mission news: MGS (latest pictures!) + Cassini + Stardust

Delta IV maiden flight delayed for several days
After the Atlas V, the other EELV is almost ready to go, after numerous delays: Status, ST (earlier). Earlier: Boeing Release, SN (sidebar), Dsc. Ariane 5 launch slips to Nov. 28: ESA Release, BBC. Earlier: ST. Delta damaged in accident, launch of a GPS satellite delayed: SN, FT, SC.
Update # 245 of Friday, November 15, 2002
The last Leonid storms in our time / NASA changes Space Launch Initiative / Stardust @ Annefrank, Galileo @ Amalthea

The last two Leonid meteor storms in our time

(i.e. until the year 2099) are expected to occur on Tuesday morning, November 19: The first one is best seen from Western Europe and NW Africa, the other one from Canada, most of the U.S. and Mexico. Again the precise predictions by the experts differ on when exactly the storms will peak and what strength they will reach, but the forecasts are much closer together than they were leading up to the 2001 storms (see Update # 227 for the confusion before, 230 for the final predictions and early impressions of what happened, and 236 story 5 for a detailled analysis). Here is what 5 researchers or groups are expecting for 2002:

Lyytinen et al. 3500
4:03 (106)
10:40 (122)
& Asher
3:56 ± 5 (105)
10:34 ± 5 (71)
Jenniskens 5900
3:48 (38)
10:23 (36)
& Colas
3400 ± 300
4:04 (120)
3000 ± 300
10:47 (180)
Langbroek 2000 - 5700 2400 - 5200

In bold the maximum zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) is given, sometimes together with either a range of expected maximum values or error bars: This is the number of meteors you would see if there were no Moon, the limiting magnitude in the sky were 6.5 mag. and the radiant would be in the zenith. Due to the Moon being almost full and the radiant usually sitting at a less-than-perfect elevation, you can expect to see perhaps a third to a fourth of the ZHR in reality, i.e. a meteor every two seconds on average or so, even if the more optimistic models work out. Also given are the peak times in UTC and the full width half maximum (FWHM) of the ZHR in minutes.

Note that the predictions for the first peak (middle column) differ by a factor of 6, while for the 2nd peak (right column) they agree much better: The first peak will be caused by a dust trail that has gone around the Sun 7 times and has suffered from planetary perturbations while the 2nd peak's dust trail is only 4 revolutions old and probably in better shape. The modellers differ in their treatment of the perturbations and effects working on the trails, with McNaught & Asher seeing major 'damage' to the 7-rev. trail. On the other hand Lyytinen & al. feel that the 4-rev. trail has been weakened.

All modellers agree, however, that the older 'European' 7-rev. trail should contain larger particles, making for brighter meteors: This should help a bit against the full moon. You should further place yourself in a location as high as possible (to have less lower atmosphere above you to scatter the moonlight), with perhaps an even higher mountain shielding off the moon, which will sink lower while the radiant rises in the morning. While the predictions for the peak times are pretty close together this time, it should still be advisable to have about one hour between 'your' peak and dawn, to be on the safe side and to watch both flanks of the peak.

As these will be the final Leonid meteor storms for almost a century (the Earth won't pass thru any dust trails before 2099), there is again great excitement among amateur and professional astronomers alike. In Europe, e.g., scores of dedicated observers are moving to sites with better weather forecasts. There will again be an airborne campaign like in 1998, 1999 and 2001, carrying sophisticated equipment above any clouds. And even the astronauts aboard the ISS should be prepared this time - with the space station passing over Europe for the 1st and over America for the 2nd peak. (Table based on Langbroek, MNRAS 334 [Aug. 2002] L16-20, McNaught & Asher, WGN 30#5 [Okt. 2002] 132-43 and the websites of Lyytinen, Jenniskens and Vaubaillon.)

Must-read sites: NAMN Notes with a detailled introduction, Science@NASA with forecasts and observing tips, Ogawa with viewing conditions in different locations, and general Leo 2002 sites from IMO, Jahn, Rao, Lüthen, DMS and AKM.

Websites by the analysts: Lyytinen, Asher, McNaught, Jenniskens, Vaubaillon.

Press Releases have been issued by NASA's ARC, MSFC and GSFC, ESA [alt.], Indiana Univ., the Planetary Society, S&T and Astronomy.

Numerous articles have been put online by Sky & Tel., Astronomy, SC (other and earlier, still earlier, even earlier, still earlier stories), CSM, Dsc, CNN, WP (earlier), AFP, UPI, Guardian, CENAP, RP and NZ.

Also of interest are papers by Torii & al. on the radiant of the 2001 Leonids and by Vincovic & al. on electrophonic meteor sound, timelapse videos and pictures (more and more) of the 2001 storms, maps and lists to determine the precise limiting magnitude, essential for analysing meteor observations, and a French weather portal to find a clear spot ...

Sudbury, Chicxulub didn't have the same cause

Of these two major impact craters, one apparently was caused by a comet and one by an asteroid impact: UIUC PR, Ast., NZ. Chicxulub not alone: NYT.
Pictures from the Bodaibo region where a cosmic airburst took place on Sep. 25 appear in this Russian article by Itogi.
Probable Hermes recovery still not proven - but 2002 SY50 (see Update # 243 story 2 sidebar) can be observed now: S&T AstroAlert. 'Horror asteroid' 1997 XF11 - see Update # 72! - came back on Oct. 31st: Science@NASA.

NASA changes Space Launch Initiative, wants a "space plane" ASAP

It had been coming for months, and now it is official: The U.S. will change its Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 budget "to implement a new Integrated Space Transportation Plan (ISTP) and ensure the International Space Station is properly financed and better positioned to achieve its scientific research priorities," a NASA statement said on Nov. 8. "The new direction reflects important changes to NASA's five-year budget plan, within the totals contained in the President's FY 2003 Budget. It is based on multiple studies, undertaken over the past few years, including the extensive work conducted under the Space Launch Initiative (SLI)." The new plan will be sent to Congress soon which NASA calls "a robust and flexible approach to meeting space transportation needs through the new ISTP."

The ISTP consists of three major programs: the old Space Shuttle, an Orbital Space Plane, and even fuzzier Next Generation Launch Technology. The new plan makes investments to extend Shuttle's operational life for continued safe operations. The Orbital Space Plane is designed to provide a crew transfer capability (down as a crew rescue vehicle as well as up), as early as possible, to ensure access to and from the International Space Station beyond the era of the Soyuz rescue ships used today and until 2006. (When the Space Plane could be available is another question, though, perhaps not before 2010.) The Next Generation Launch Technology Program meanwhile funds developments in areas such as propulsion, structures, and operations for the next generation Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV). The Integrated Space Transportation Plan itself was released on Nov. 13, with the space plane as the center issue.

NASA Releases on the ISTP and the SLI and coverage by New Sci., AD, BBC, FT (earlier), NYT, ST (earlier), SR (earlier, still earlier), AFP (earlier), AW&ST. Why the Shuttle should be replaced: a strong opinion voiced in G2Mil.

Cosmos 1 solar sail to be pushed w/microwaves

Microwaves will be transmitted towards the satellite from the Goldstone antenna to the Cosmos 1 sail to measure how much the microwave beam changes its orbit: UCI Press Release [added comments via SR], SC, ST.

SORCE satellite shipped to KSC: Orbital, GSFC Releases.
ICESAT shipped to Vandenberg: GSFC Release.

Stardust shoots bonus pictures of asteroid while Galileo gets zapped during final Jovian moon encounter

Two milestones for two spacecraft have come in close succession in early November: On Nov. 2nd, Stardust (launched 1999) passed asteroid Annefrank on its way to comet Wild 2 and got some surprisingly detailed images, while on Nov. 4th Galileo (lauched in 1989) flew by the minor Jovian moon Amalthea - no images were taken there, however, and even the moderate science program planned was compromized by another safing event. The Stardust Annefrank encounter was primarily used as an engineering test of the ground and spacecraft operations that will be implemented at the primary scientific target, Comet Wild 2 just over one year from now. The close flyby of Annefrank offered a unique opportunity to thoroughly test all planned operations on the spacecraft and ground support operations which will be used during the comet rendezvous.

"We performed a full dress rehearsal with the cometary dust collector deployed as we flew STARDUST within 3300 kilometers of Annefrank," says Professor Donald Brownlee, the project's Principal Investigator from the University of Washington: "The spacecraft was poised in its flyby attitude with all the science instruments on. The flyby has exceeded all of our expectations and provided us with unexpected data about the asteroid." The main function to be tested during flyby was a sophisticated flight computer program that would take over control of the spacecraft to keep the camera view locked on Annefrank during a 25-minute period around its closest encounter - and it worked just as expected.

Over 70 encounter images were obtained that show a typical small solar system body, highly irregularly shaped and cratered. Annefrank is about twice as large as predicted, at least 6 kilometers in diameter, but darker than expected and therefore more difficult to detect in the early images. Not only did the camera perform well but the University of Chicago Dust Flux Measurement Instrument (DFMI) and the German Cometary and Interstellar Dust Analyzer (CIDA) performed as expected. "We learned a lot that will improve our operations at Wild 2 based upon the lessons learned at Annefrank," says Project Manager Thomas Duxbury: "The bottom line is that if Annefrank had been Wild 2, we would have succeeded in every respect."

In contrast to the Stardust adventure, the Galileo Amalthea encounter was a rather somber affair as this was the final visit to any object in the Jovian orbit by the trusted orbiter - and because the project is already very low on cash, the camera could not be operated. Nonetheless, the flyby was partial success as Galileo dashed through Jupiter's inner radiation belts and past the small moon. As the orbiter headed closer to Jupiter than it had ever ventured before, it gathered measurements of the energy fields and charged particles in the inner region of Jupiter's magnetic environment. It also examined dust grains that form a "gossamer" ring around the planet.

However, Galileo placed itself in a standby precautionary mode after its closest approach to Amalthea. It flew past Amalthea at a targeted altitude of 160 km at 06:19 UTC on Nov. 5, then went into "safe" mode about 30 minutes later. The flight team at JPL is working on recovery operations, diagnosing what happened and preparing new commands to Galileo that will restore the orbiter to normal and enable the playback of scientific data stored on the spacecraft's tape recorder. Two tape tracks of science data were recorded during the encounter period, out of four tracks planned. Also, the intended type of two-way radio link with Earth for the period closest to the flyby was not achieved.

Stardust @ Annefrank: Stardust News, JPL Release, U. of WA Daily Online News, the best picture [PhotoJournal, APOD, false color version] and coverage by S&T, Ast., BBC, CNN, Dsc., SC, ST.
Earlier: JPL Release, New Sci., BBC, SC, ST, NZ. Previews: U Wash. PR, UPI, Dsc.

Galileo @ Amalthea: Status Report of Nov. 6, Science@NASA on Jupiter's "Gossamer rings" and coverage by Ast., UPI, AP, CNN (earlier), Dsc., UPI, ST, New Sci., CSM, NZ. Previews: JPL Release, S&T, RP.

An extremely bright eruption on Io

has been observed with the Keck telescope in Feb. 2001: Berkeley Release (alt. version), New Sci., Ast., NZ.
Red freckles on Europa could be rising ice 'magma': JPL Release, APOD, BBC, Ast., CNN, UPI, Ast., ST, RP, NZ.
Mutual phenomena of the galilean satellites of Jupiter can - and should - be observed now: Phemu03, S&T.

ESA will do the Venus Express

mission, despite the lack of a commitment by Italy so far - ESA will financially contribute to the rest, for an amount of 8.5 million Euros: ESA Press Release [ESA Science News, SR], SN, AFP, BBC, ST.

Cassini's first image of Saturn

has been taken from 285 mio. km distance and is already showing a lot of details: UA Release, Mission Status, PhotoJournal, APOD, BBC, S&T, Ast., ST, RP, NZ.
More on Uranus' latest new moon (see Update #243 small items): IAUC, JPL Release, NZ.

ISS Update

The next taxi has reached the ISS after a flawless Soyuz launch, the old one has returned - and the next shuttle launch to the ISS had to be delayed by at least one week due to an oxygen leak: ESA and Starsem News plus ISS Status # 48 on the Soyuz launch, ESA News on the docking and the landing, Boeing and MSFC Releases on the P1 Truss, ESA News on ISS commerce, a NASA PR on 2 years of ISS occupancy and a SpaceAdv. Rel. on the new Soyuz type.
There are also video storyboards given to Expedition 1, an APOD with the ISS after S1 was added, spectacular ISS views of glaciers and coverage of Nov. 15: New Sci. Nov. 14: SN (earlier), Guardian, AFP. Nov. 13: FT, BBC, ST. Nov. 12: UPI, AFP, SN. Nov. 11: SN, AFP (other and another story), BBC, ST, SC, RP. Nov. 10: AFP, SC, ST. Nov. 9: SN, AP, ST. Nov. 8: SC, SN. Nov. 6: CNN. Nov. 4: AFP. Nov. 2: SC. Nov. 1: SN, FT, SC, AFP (other story), ST (other and yet another story), NZ. Oct. 31: SC. Oct. 30: SN, New Sci., BBC, AFP (other story), UPI, ST, SC, NZ. Oct. 29: Bloomberg, FT, AFP, ST (other story). Oct. 28: SN, CNN, UPI, SC.

"The most powerful magnet found in the Universe"

is SGR 1806-20, a magnetar candidate - the strength of its magnetic field is approximately 1015 Gauss: GSFC Release [SR].

The magnetic fields of White Dwarfs are higher than thought, measurements of the Zeeman-effect in nearby maser sources reveal - they may be crucial in shaping Planetary Nebulae: Jodrell Bank PR.

By far the most metal-poor star

has been discovered - HE0107-5240 contains 200,000 times less metal than the Sun and 20 times less metal than the previous record-holder: ESO Press Release, NSU, S&T, BBC, SC, Ast., ST, RP, NZ.

Star formation stirs up turbulence in the galaxy and limits further star formation: UCSD PR [SR], NZ.

Clouds floating high above Milky Way provide tantalizing evidence that supernova-powered "galactic fountains" continually blast superheated hydrogen gas into our Galactic suburbs: NRAO Release.

Astronomers "find life on Earth"

The spectrum of the full Earth has been measured, using the Earthshine on the Moon, and clear indications of (plant) life are seen - thus future telescopes could do the same test with earthlike exoplanets: CfA Press Release, SC.

Contracts for Kepler satellite issued - NASA has issued contracts worth over $30 million to two companies developing key components for the Kepler planet-finding mission: ST. COROT will go a year earlier: DLR PM, Welt, Sp.

Bacteria travelling thru space - how that could work is also the subject of British lab experiments: SD.

China launches imaging satellite

China has launched an imaging satellite designed for remote sensing or military reconnaissance work, Zi Yuan 2: SN, ST. Falling debris after launch injures boy: AFP, CNN.

China steps up astronaut training for the 1st manned Shenzhou flight: SC. Launch of Shenzhou 4 - a dress rehearsal - could come on New Year's Day: New Sci., AFP (earlier, still earlier), SC (earlier), ST, NZ.

Russia may drop Baikonur, use Russian cosmodromes instead, in Plesetsk and Svobodny: AFP.

Now there are 8 binaries in the Kuiper Belt

Images of the trans-Neptunian objects 1997 CQ29 and 2000 CF105 obtained with the HST show them to be binary - they are the seventh and eighth known pair, and binarity appears to be a not-uncommon characteristic in this region of the solar system, with detectable companions present in 4% of the objects examined: paper by Noll & al., SR.

A certain kind of Cosmic Rays coming from the Kuiper Belt? The high content in heavy elements in Anomalous CRs is pointing in this direction: SwRI, AGU Press Releases, S&T.

Pluto mission passes design review - the basic design of the spacecraft is good, allowing the project to proceed: APL Press Release, ST. Why all want to go there: FT ( sidebar). Earlier: Welt.

Voyager plasma wave data turned into music

Recordings from the PWS on the Voyager spacecraft have been used to compose a piece for the Kronos Quartet which has now premiered: JPL Release, Ast.

Gravitational lens survey confirms Dark Energy dominance

It's not just supernova brightness patterns and CMB power spectra anymore that hint at a Dark Energy dominating the energy budget of the Universe - the same astonishing picture is now emerging from a major radio survey for gravitational lenses: Jodrell Bank PR, BBC, New Sci., Ast., ST, Independent, BdW, NZ.

Strange things are happening in the RHIC, the big collider running "little bangs" with colliding gold nuclei - what the unexpected observations tell us, is a mystery, though: Univ. of Rochester Release [SR].

One medium size black hole "ceases to be uniquely implied"

as the famous study on the core of the globular cluster M 15 (see Update # 243 small items) was making use of a diagram in a 5 years old other paper - which turned out to be flawed: paper by Gerssen & al. Sgr A* is "on starvation diet": Gemini Release, UPI, NZ.

XMM studies the state of a neutron star thru its gravitational redshift - it may contain ordinary matter, too: ESA Science News, GSFC Release, Ast., SC.

Two simultaneous solar flares

on opposite sides of the Sun were observed on Oct. 31 - now the trick is figuring out the connection between two events that were about 2 mio. km apart, as measured across the solar surface: NSO Press Release, RP, NZ. Action on the Sun in late October: SOHO pictures.

The sharpest ever view of the Sun is being delivered by the Swedish 1-m Solar Telescope on the Canary Island of La Palma: SolFysik Press Release [SR], pictures, APOD, S&T, New Sci., BBC, UPI, SC, ST, NZ. Spectacular Japanese eclipse pictures from June 2001 and 2002: Kaz_T.

Have you read the the previous issue?!
All other historical issues can be found in the Archive.
The U.S. site of this Cosmic Mirror has been visited times
since it was issued (the German site has no counter).

Compiled and written by Daniel Fischer
(send me a mail to!), Skyweek