Saturday, January 14, 2006

Stardust on final approach

In just over 18 hours from now the Stardust probe will hopefully make a soft landing in the Utah desert at 03:12 local time (10:12 GMT) after a 2.88 billion mile round trip. The velocity of the sample return capsule, as it enters the Earth's atmosphere at 28,860 mph, will be the fastest of any human-made object on record.

The reentry of the sample return capsule should be visible over most of the western part of the United States, and should provide a spectacular show, with a predicted peak visible brightness of around -7 magnitudes seen from a distance of 100 km (60 miles), which is two and a half times brighter than a Iridium flare.

Update: A safe landing for Stardust...