We Can Almost See it From Here

PHOTO BY THE EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY. Oddest shaped “little planet” ever seen, comet 67P/Churyumaov-Gerasimenko.
Oddest shaped “little planet” ever seen, comet 67P/Churyumaov-Gerasimenko.

Contributing Writer
Walt Pickut
Board of Directors, MMMAA

Once again, the science of astronomy and a pioneering spacecraft have delivered a big surprise from far out in deep space.
Ten years ago the European Space Agency launched a spacecraft named Rosetta on a long chase trajectory that would take it a billion kilometers from home, stalking a comet with the improbable name of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The plan was tricky: Catch up to it. Take its picture. Release a small robot called Philae to land on it and figure out what it is made of.
Rosetta finally reached its target this month, far out near the planet Jupiter, woke from its long, programmed 10-year sleep, and saw something nobody had imagined. Apparently, two comets had long ago, in the age when the solar system itself was just forming, more than 4 billion years ago, and merged into one big, 2-lobed rubble pile no more than a few miles across.
It is now considered by astronomers as one of the most exciting space missions of the 21st century. Rosetta will now follow its new companion as it begins its long looping fall toward the sun and begins to glow and form a comet’s tail of vaporizing gas and dust. Stay tuned for more surprises!
Observers at the Marshal Martz Observatory have seen many wonders in space, but this little comet clump is even beyond the Martz telescope’s powerful eyes to image. It would appear as only a tiny, bright speck against the blackness of space.
But the Martz Observatory is involved anyway, if only in an indirect, but very important way. Martz is beginning an expansion program which is poised to help train Chautauqua County’s young men and women as tomorrow’s science teachers, space scientists, astrophysicists and astronauts. The Martz telescopes can now be accessed, programmed and controlled robotically, remotely, by students in local classrooms who can design and conduct their own original space research with the Martz telescopes.
This is being made possible largely through the generous financial support of important community foundations and industries and individual citizens who have so far contributed more than $100,000 for the expansion of the observatory facilities and buildings. The Marshal Martz Memorial Astronomical Association, Martz Observatory, is a 501 (c) (3) corporation providing for fully tax deductible contributions.
Parents, teachers and interested citizens are invited to log on to www.martzobservatory.org/, visit the observatory, become a member of this pioneering organization and find out what is still needed and how you can contribute to the current capital campaign to complete the installation of a recently donated major research grade telescope and building.
News from the Marshal Martz Observatory and the universe beyond our skies is brought to our readers every month by Hall & Laury Optical at 707 Fairmount Ave Ste 10 Jamestown NY, the quality local source for the latest in fashion and highest of quality in glasses and optical aids of every kind, including repairs.

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.