Saturday, July 30, 2011
This article in Italian (found it doing a search in Italian) says that this year is the Year of the Chinese Language in France, one of those events one reads about from time to time where there are a few official events and bilateral accords signed between two countries. I think I remember reading recently about Russia and China deciding to make this year the Year of the Other Country's Language, with similar events planned. It would be interesting to see if these events actually have an effect on public opinion, though I have no idea where to begin searching for anything quantitative on that.
Vesta: not only is there going to be a news conference on the 1st of August, but Vesta itself is almost at closest approach to Earth. From the 5th to 7th of August the so-called Vesta Fiesta will take place where events will be held to observe Vesta at its brightest, and with the most powerful telescopes this will be a good opportunity to compare observations with the closeups that Dawn is now sending back. For example the images taken in 1996 by the Hubble Space Telescope:
With little else to compare that to we were left with a lot of guesswork, but now it's easy to match up dark and light spots with craters we can now see from up close, and use this to further our ability to guess about other asteroids viewed from afar. I have no idea how coordinated these events are going to be, but if they can help us to better guess about Ceres before arrival (especially since the same probe, Dawn, is going to be visiting there) then so much the better. This image was taken at a distance of 1.168 AU, and Vesta at closest approach this time is also a fairly close 1.23 AU. Other close approaches are usually a bit farther away at 1.4 or 1.5 AU or so.
Juno again: launch is slated to take place in about a week, and one thing I forget to mention when last writing about it was how the mission pertains to much more than Jupiter: at the moment we know of 564 exoplanets, most of which are gas giants. By the time Juno arrives at Jupiter this number will be in the thousands. Our best way to understand how these planets develop and interact with their host stars is by understanding our own, so this new mission looking at Jupiter from up close will refine our estimates of thousands of other planets, not just our own. And hopefully if the EJSM - LaPlace mission goes ahead, then we will know not only about Jupiter from up close but also its largest moons.
That reminds me, I need to set up an alert for this keyword. Done.
Last interesting bit of information (not really news) today: it turns out that there's a lost centaur in the Solar System, an asteroid of perhaps 300 km in diameter that was observed a number of times in 1995 and then vanished. If this object isn't the largest centaur in the Solar System then 10199 Chariklo is.