Tag Archives: Cheops

Successful first light for CHEOPS space telescope

The science team for Europe’s exoplanet-hunting CHEOPS space telescope announced today that the telescope has successfully obtained its first pictures, and that all appears to be working correctly.

Preliminary analysis has shown that the images from CHEOPS are even better than expected. However, better for CHEOPS does not mean sharper as the telescope has been deliberately defocused. This is because spreading the light over many pixels ensures that the spacecraft’s jitter and the pixel-to-pixel variations are smoothed out, allowing for better photometric precision. “The good news is that the actual blurred images received are smoother and more symmetrical than what we expected from measurements performed in the laboratory,” says Benz. High precision is necessary for CHEOPS to observe small changes in the brightness of stars outside our solar system caused by the transit of an exoplanet in front of the star. Since these changes in brightness are proportional to the surface of the transit planet, CHEOPS will be able to measure the size of the planets. “These initial promising analyses are a great relief and also a boost for the team,” continues Benz.

I suspect the planned fuzziness of their images is why the press release did not include them.

Looking down a comet’s neck

Looking down Comet 67P/C-G's neck

Because all the focus in past two weeks has been on the attempt to land Philae on the surface of Comet 67P/C-G, no one has been paying much attention to the images that Rosetta has continued to produce. On the right however is a humdinger, released on November 17. The image looks into the neck or saddle of the comet, from the side. The giant boulder Cheops can be seen in the saddle, with a jet visible against the black sky above it.

What I like about this image is that I can imagine hiking up the sandy slope to this narrow saddle, where I could stand next to Cheops and look out at that jet. For the explorer in all of us this sure wets the appetite for the future. If only people could go and do that now!

Giant boulders on Comet 67P/C-G

Giant boulders on Comet 67P/C-G

As Rosetta has moved in on Comet 67P/C-G, engineers have focused in on its most interesting surface features, such as the nucleus’s neck as well as a collection of very large boulders on a relatively smooth area on the nucleus’s larger lobe. The biggest boulder, seen as the middlemost rock in the photo above, they have named Cheops. It is estimated to be 150 feet across with a height of about 80 feet.

It should be emphasized that calling these features boulders might actually be premature at this time.
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