Perihelion and Beyond

This event, hosted by Leicester Astronomical Society, celebrated this year’s European Space Agency mission to land a space probe on a comet.’

On the first day of autumn we gathered at the National Space Centre for an out-of-this world adventure.

Once Josh Barker , on the staff at the Space Centre, had demonstrated how to create our very own mini-comet, complete with sublimating tail, we were raring to start.

Nut & Ra

Siobhan Logan transported us in Ra’s own vessel  away from the sheltering warmth  of the great goddess Nut, into the dark dangers of the frozen underworld and overworld that  join seamlessly to form the expanding universe. We sped far off past Benbon and Mars to  dark-hearted, silver-locked Churyumov-Garasimenko that flies basking in the rays of Ra, allowing  its unbound, luminescent hair to trail long and wide behind all the time  singing  the oscillating songs of space.

We watched frail Philae float down from its winged steed, Rosetta.

Rosetta

We winced as it stumbled  and bounced into  debilitating shadows that belong to Seth. We held our breath as Philae’s voice faded into the silence of Death. Had Seths’s serpent,  Apophis finally triumphed over its twin, Mehen, pledged to the service of Ra? But Ra’s rays prevailed and  Philae struggled into life in time for the great Perihelion.

Then Siobhan raced us back to our own terrestrial  nest  where Professor John Bridges introduced us to  the logical mysteries of rigid arithmetic.

He explained: ‘In 1986 Europe made the first flyby of a comet – Halley’s Comet, now Europe has made the first landing on a comet with Rosetta. Together with samples returned from Comet Wild2 by the Stardust mission in 2006 we are learning about the very earliest stages of the Solar System from the record preserved in these primitive celestial bodies.’

He explained why the Rosetta mission is unique: 

‘Rosetta has sent back extraordinary images of jets composed of ice and dust coming from the surface as it approaches the Sun and analyses of organic compounds and water. As we delve deeper into the Rosetta results we are realising that some of our old ideas about the origin of the Solar System will change.’

We stumbled home clutching Siobhan’s exquisitely crafted  scrolls.

 

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