Before we do one more thing let’s work together to at least attempt to pronounce their names correctly: Chew-er-ee-you-mof; Gar-a-si-men-ko. That was easy. Chewereeyoumof-Garasimenko. Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
OK Russians and other Slavs; come on over and show us how it’s done!
Anyhow, in 1969 (wasn’t 1969 the “Summer of Love”? Or was it 1968…I don’t remember. I must have been part of it!) an astronomer, Svetlana Ivanovna Gerasimenko, yes she’s a girl, made a photographic plate on 11 September 1969 at the Alma-Ata Astrophysical Institute just outside that city, the then capital of Kazakhstan. So the summer of love was over by then, since like, September is in autumn and autumn is after summer; I don’t remember there being an “Autumn of Love” in 1969. She was looking for a comet; specifically comet Comas Solà. But something was very wrong with her photo; and Klim was about to find out.
She provided the photographic plate to her colleague Klim Ivanovych Churyumov. Just say: “Chewer..” and the rest is easy. You got it! Anyhow, Klim, and you just have to admit “Klim” is a totally bitchen sounding first name, was an astronomer with the Kiev Astronomical Observatory. About a month after he got the photographic plate, he noticed that the comet they were looking for wasn’t in the right spot on the plate, it was off by 1.8 degrees.
Yeah, off by 1.8 degrees; nobody tells you how he figured that out – you know 1.8 degrees isn’t much! I mean nowadays you’d just feed everything into a computer, or your i-phone, or google it, or something else monumentally intellectually lazy; but in 1969 that previous summer might have been “of love”, there certainly was no internet; no personal computers; no nothing of the sort. Russia 1969? Pencil. Paper. Maybe an abacus. Incidentally have you ever seen one of those competitions between an abacus and a calculator? Google it; abacus kicks ass every time.
So how’d he do it? I don’t really know, but here’s my best guess: Svetlana took a picture of a section of the stuff out in outer space by attaching a camera to a telescope while she was down south, way down south Kazakhstan way.
Have you ever seen one of those photos? I think I have; but I’m not sure – I think they look like a black background with a bunch and I mean a mega-bunch of tiny splotches of light that are actually comets, galaxies, planets, quasars, black-holes, brown-dwarfs, interstellar gas-clouds, asteroids, and all manner of weird, unimaginably enormous, incomprehensibly distant space stuff. Some people devote their lives pondering that stuff so you don’t have to. Klim is one such person.
So somehow he figured out that the comet he thought was there wasn’t where he thought it was, and the comet he was looking for was faintly visible somewhere else and guess what, it was where he thought it should be; ergo the splotch he was pondering was actually something new. And, it was new. Klim and Svetlana had discovered a comet; and as tradition would have it, comets are named after their discoverer(s). So they get to be famous. Good on them. Nice people I’m sure. Klim and Svetlana’s comet is actually, officially named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
I’m still not sure how Klim found the blasted thing without an iphone or google. So I’ll just guess. Maybe he took the photo, and stuck it into something like an optical comparator and magnified it (I know I would – I can’t stand staring at tiny stuff), and then overlaid a transparent protractor and noticed the 1.8 degree delta. How? I do not know. Anybody have any idea how astronomers do this stuff please clue me because it’s Sunday, I have a cold and feel like crap, have to go to a concert at 4:00, and am feeling monumentally intellectually lazy; don’t feel like actually figuring it out so I’m just going to make stuff up.
OK Summer of Love was 1967 (I googled it). So I caught that one for you. But please, from now on, pay attention. But 1969 still matters.
Because in 1969 the European Space Agency (ESA) was formed. These people are extremely bad-ass and you need to check them out. And November of 1993, after what must have been thousands of hours of extremely boring meetings, politiking, and general time-wasting by the over-educated welfare class in Europe working at ESA, (see “EU”) a mission was approved to launch a spacecraft to a comet; orbit said comet, deploy a lander to the comet surface(!), and like, you know, ponder the results. Eventually they settled on Klim and Svetlana’s comet. Mission code name: Rosetta.
Watch this short video: http://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Videos/2014/09/Philae_s_descent_and_science_on_the_surface
Rosetta fun facts:
Mission Name: Rosetta is named after the Rosetta Stone, an incomplete stela of black basalt incised with the same priestly decree in three scripts (Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Egyptian Demotic and Greek) concerning Ptolemy V. The great significance of the Stone is that it provided the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Rosetta Space Mission seeks to see if comet C-G can provide a key to deciphering the origins of the solar system and/or life on Earth.
2 March 2004: Rosetta launched from French Guiana a top a massive Ariane 5 rocket – isn’t French Guiana where the novel Papillon was set? You know, the french novel about a guy wrongly imprisoned in a horrible penal colony and made into a movie starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman? Yeah it is – novel was published in 1969…
March 2005 Earth 1 Gravity Assist
Feb 2007: Mars Gravity Assist
Nov 2007 Earth 2 Gravity Assist
Nov 2009 Earth 3 Gravity Assist
Jan 2014 Exit Hibernation
Aug 2014 Rendezvous with Klim and Svetlana’s comet (Incidentally, isn’t “rendezvous” a cool word…try to use it next time you play scrabble – you might win! Another good one is “vacuum” – use “vacuum” in a sentence: “Somewhere deep in the seemingly infinite vacuum of deep space, a tiny piece of EuroTech hurtles toward a rendezvous with comet Klim/Svetlana; all desperate hopes, fervent prayers, and frantic google searches for cool video pinned on its little lander thingy called “Philae”, pronounced I think “Feelay” which refers to a block of stone some archeologist dude / Indiana Jones-like action figure person, found on an island in the middle of the Nile river which provided the key, the key to the ROSETTA stone; so the lander for the Rosetta mission is called “Philae”. Now you know.
Sept 2014 Orbit said comet
12 Nov 2014 – Land a spacecraft, Philae, on the surface of a (freaking) comet! Nuts. It’s never happened before, and it’s all going down in like 17 days or so.
Witness the multimedia presentation provided by those ‘Mairicans at JPL:
Bad. Would make your eyes water. http://science.slashdot.org/story/14/10/26/1226209/rosetta-probe-reveals-what-a-comet-smells-like
OK, OK enough is enough; this post has gone on way too long; run off the rails way too often, honked up simple facts way beyond good taste so we close with these things to ponder:
If you were to write a multi-volume sci-fi book (three volumes is usually enough…) about space pirates with a super-secret lair deep in the Oort Cloud preying upon deep solar system traffic and the occasional interstellar trade caravan; pirates alternatively siding with the Earth based Imperial Guard and the rebels with a hidden base under the surface of Jupiter’s moon Titan: Would the good guy or the bad guy be named “Klim”. Svetlana? Rebel. For sure. Name of your novel: “The Smell of a Comet”.
Ponder this: If comets are supposedly made up of lots of water; and if supposedly they hit the earth zillions of years ago and thus formed the oceans; where did the comets get the water from? Why don’t comets keep hitting the earth and keep filling up the oceans?
Stay tuned for November 14.