Recently the BICEP2 Research group announced far-reaching results which claimed to provide observational evidence for cosmic inflation in the split seconds after the Big Bang (see blog post April 15, 2014). The work has now been formally published in Physical Review Letters (see web reference below). However competing research groups have now raised issued with the methods and analysis performed by the BICEP2 group, bringing their conclusions into question. These criticisms are as a consequence of new information about polariation caused by galactic dust in the Milky Way from the European Space Agency's Plank observatory (see blog post April 4, 2013). However the BICEP2 group stand by their results and conclusions, but accept that that big questions remain unanswered. Clearly the conclusions about cosmic inflation need to be confirmed by other independent research groups - no big deal - just science in action!
Wednesday 18 June saw the successful 4th thruster burn, out of a planned series of ten. This mid-course correction brought the spacecraft within 165,000 km of Comet 67P/Churnyumov Gerasimenko (on Thursday 19 June), which is around 43% of the Earth-moon distance. Despite the fact that this is a very small distance on an astronomical scale, nevertheless the accompanying narrow-angle camera image shows the comet as a star-like object only 1 or 2 pixels across. The camera used is primarily an important scientific payload, but during this phase of the approach to the comet it will be used extensively to aid the spacecraft's guidance and navigation.
Norminal arrival in orbit around the comet is planned for 6 August - the show is about to begin!
Graham Swinerd - I hope to use this page to highlight current major events in space and spacececraft.