HAMNET Report 9 December 2018

In the absence of much EmComm news this week, we look to the skies for interesting snippets of information.

NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft completed its 2 billion-kilometre  journey to arrive at the asteroid Bennu on Monday. The spacecraft executed a manoeuvre that transitioned it from flying towards Bennu to operating around the asteroid.

Now, at about 19 kilometres from Bennu’s Sun-facing surface, OSIRIS-REx will begin a preliminary survey of the asteroid. The spacecraft will commence flyovers of Bennu’s north pole, equatorial region, and south pole, getting as close as nearly 7 kilometres above Bennu during each flyover.

OSIRIS-REx’s mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth. Asteroids are remnants of the building blocks that formed the planets and enabled life. Those like Bennu contain natural resources, such as water, organics and metals. Future space exploration and economic development may rely on asteroids for these materials.

The mission’s navigation team will use the preliminary survey of Bennu to practice the delicate task of navigating around the asteroid. The spacecraft will enter orbit around Bennu on Dec. 31 — thus making Bennu, which is only about  500 meters across — or about the length of five football fields — the smallest object ever orbited by a spacecraft. It’s a critical step in OSIRIS-REx’s years-long quest to collect and eventually deliver at least 60 grams of regolith — dirt and rocks — from Bennu to Earth.

OSIRIS-REx mission marks many firsts in space exploration. It will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth, and the largest sample returned from space since the Apollo era. It’s the first to study a primitive B-type asteroid, which is an asteroid that’s rich in carbon and organic molecules that make up life on Earth. It is also the first mission to study a potentially hazardous asteroid and try to determine the factors that alter their courses to bring them close to Earth.

When OSIRIS-REx begins to orbit Bennu at the end of this month, it will come close to approximately 1.25 kilometres from its surface. In February 2019, the spacecraft begins efforts to globally map Bennu to determine the best site for sample collection. After the collection site is selected, the spacecraft will briefly touch the surface of Bennu to retrieve a sample. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to return the sample to Earth in September 2023.

Thank you to the Southgate Amateur Radio Club news report for these extracts. What an amazing accomplishment it will be if the mission is successful!

Here’s more astronomical news for you science boffins.

Discovered on January 17, 1948 by American Astronomer Carl Wirtanen at the Lick Observatory near San Jose in the state of California, Comet 46P/Wirtanen is one of ten comets to have made very close approaches to the Earth in modern history. Only a handful of these ten comets, including 46P/Wirtanen, were bright enough to be seen with naked eyes.

Some astronomers have predicted that 46P/Wirtanen may be visible without any viewing aids in the weeks around December 16, 2018, when it makes its closest approach to the Earth in 70 years. This is just 4 days after the comet reaches its perihelion—the closest point to the Sun on its orbit—on Dec 12, 2018.

In early December, the comet will move through constellations Eridanus and Cetus. It will reach Taurus around December 12 and pass very close to the Pleiades star cluster around December 16.

To find Taurus, and Comet Wirtanen, look high up in the sky after the end of civil twilight in the evening and before it gets light in the morning.

Don’t say you haven’t been notified! Get out your pair of binoculars, lie on your back in the garden in a dark site, and look more or less straight up for Taurus and the Pleiades cluster. Thank you to timeanddate.com for these details.

Here’s another report from the World Health Organisation’s weekly newsletter.

The Global status report on road safety 2018, launched by WHO in December 2018, highlights the fact that the number of annual road traffic deaths has reached 1.35 million. Road traffic injuries are now the leading killers of people aged 5-29 years. The burden is disproportionately borne by pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, in particular those living in developing countries. The report suggests that the price paid for mobility is too high, especially because proven measures exist. These include strategies to address speed and drinking and driving, among other behaviours; safer infrastructure like dedicated lanes for cyclists and motorcyclists; improved vehicle standards such as those that mandate electronic stability control; and enhanced post-crash care. Drastic action is needed to put these measures in place to meet any future global target that might be set and save lives.

Finally, the Western Cape Division of HAMNET South Africa held its end of year function yesterday afternoon at a beautiful high site on the slopes of the mountain above Gordon’s Bay, at the home of Deputy Regional Director, Peter Dekker, ZS1PDE.

Peter had graciously offered his home as a venue and saw to the salads and light refreshments at the bring-and-braai, which took place as the afternoon progressed.

The meeting was attended by most of the regular volunteers, and good fellowship was enjoyed by all.

Our Regional Director, Grant Southey ZS1GS, made a short speech of thanks to all members for their contributions to the field of EmComms in the Western Cape during the year, and presented them with certificates of appreciation.

HAMNET Western Cape bulletins on a Wednesday evening at 19h30 will end for the year after this coming Wednesday the 12th of December, and will resume after the festive season on 9th January 2019.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.