back to article ESA's Solar Orbiter will swing past Earth this week – sure hope nobody created a big cloud of space junk up there

ESA's Solar Orbiter is to undertake a flyby of Earth, requiring a careful assessment of debris as it dips close to the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) ahead of its main science mission. The flyby is due to take place on the 26 and 27 of November. The amount of debris on orbit was helpfully increased last week …

  1. KittenHuffer Silver badge
    Coat

    12km/s is 85714 linguine/s!

    Gonna go pasta fasta!

    1. HildyJ Silver badge
      Angel

      Or about 1,100 times the airspeed of an unladen European swallow.

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      I believe the correct units would be 1.203*10^6 furlong/fortnight, or approximately 0.00004 times the maximum velocity of a sheep in a vacuum.

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    If they do hit some space junk

    can they sue whoever was irresponsible enough to leave it there ?

    1. pavel.petrman
      Coat

      Re: If they do hit some space junk

      Apparently only if they put the junk there on a non-commercial account but made some money in the process of putting it there (wink wink Apple).

  3. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Maybe switch to Moon flybys in future

    Given that these manoeuvres are all about changing energy and momentum I would have thought the Moon could be used instead of the Earth. This has the advantage that the number of things orbiting the Moon at any time is usually countable on the fingers of one hand at most.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Maybe switch to Moon flybys in future

      Yes, but you would then get a much lower boost from the flyby. Size really does matter in this case...

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: Size really does matter in this case

        Maybe they should consider a flyby of Donald Trump's ego then...

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Size really does matter in this case

          There's way too much unwanted junk orbiting that.

        2. BristolBachelor Gold badge
          Trollface

          Re: Size really does matter in this case

          > Maybe they should consider a flyby of Donald Trump's ego then...

          But imagine what would happen if it hit him at 12km/s.

          Oh, was that the whole point? It went woosh over my head like a spacecraft on a flyby

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Maybe switch to Moon flybys in future

      the moon is much, much lower mass than the earth, so you'd get much less kick - additionally it's harder to target, the orbit of the earth is wobbling about the barycentre of the earth moon system, that point is still inside the earth - the wobble is about six thousand miles. The moon's solar orbit is also wobbling about that same barycentre - but that means that it's wobbling half a million miles.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Maybe switch to Moon flybys in future

        "the moon is much, much lower mass than the earth, so you'd get much less kick"

        On the other hand, you can get within a few kilometres of the surface for a faster kick, just need to avoid any tall peaks, either by staying above, or going through! Could be tricky, but great visuals :-)

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Maybe switch to Moon flybys in future

          Great visuals, very risky (a very small miscalculation will have unexpected lithobraking), but still a smaller kick than a comparatively safe fly past the larger planet. Of course that safety does depend on people not being complete idiots, and that state is depressingly common amongst decision makers.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Maybe switch to Moon flybys in future

            Has anyone tried it with a Kerbal-naut?

    3. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Maybe switch to Moon flybys in future

      You'd still be planning most of your maneuvers about the earth gravity well, but then you also have to plan it in such a way that you can get into the earth gravity well and slingshot around towards the moon at just the right time that you can THEN do a slingshot around the moon. Makes for a REALLY tricky maneuver. And when SO was launched nobody expected someone to do an ASAT test at that altitude (Because it also endangers the ISS and many other useful low earth observation orbits). By the time the ESA team would have known about the ASAT test debris they were already inexorably committed to making this maneuver at that altitude. They've probably got a proverbial window up there of only a few dozen square kilometers that they'll be aiming to fly through.

  4. Santa from Exeter

    Timezone?

    I'm assuming that, as this is Science, the times quoted are UTC, but it would be good to get a clarification in the article.

    1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      Re: Timezone?

      As the quoted times are in reference to scientific events in near-Earth space, they might be TCG (Geocentric Coördinate Time, which is extremely close to, but different from, UTC).

  5. 42656e4d203239
    Mushroom

    0.5*mv^2

    is my maths wonky or is that something north of 61TJ - assuming Solar Orbiter is currently at 50% Launch mass?

    Wouldn't want to get in the way of that little bundle of joy!

    Icon cos that is what would happen to anything that had the temerety to cross the road without looking!

    1. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: 0.5*mv^2

      m=209kg, v=12000m/s

      K.E=15.048GJ from my calculation.

      1. 42656e4d203239
        Thumb Up

        Re: 0.5*mv^2

        must have been my calc drving skills.... only an order of magnitude or three out... I better not give up the day job.

        Still - a nasty tap on the head if one made unexpected contact

        1. Bob Dunlop

          Re: 0.5*mv^2

          Still enough to charge the old flux capacitor though.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: 0.5*mv^2

      A modest proposal. Get Elon to lift a load of coils & solar panels into orbit and make a coil gun. Lots of delta-whee! And now I'm wondering what the induction effect of a metallic object flying through coils at 12km/s might be.

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "I prefer not to think about it too much."

    Indeed, that is my approach as well concerning anything I can do nothing about.

    1. DarkwavePunk

      Re: "I prefer not to think about it too much."

      Yeah, at some point you've just got to throw your hands in the the air and go "Sod it. Done as much as we can.". Still, must be nice for the boffins to have almost real time comms with the kit briefly. May Eris, Goddess of Chaos smile upon the journey.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: "I prefer not to think about it too much."

        At this point Mr Newton is in the driving seat.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: "I prefer not to think about it too much."

          Mr Einstein is a better driver, especially given where they're going - and where they've been.

          1. ian 22

            Re: "I prefer not to think about it too much."

            And sadly, both Einstein and Newton are both dead, gone, deceased, no more, passed away. Although their dead hands are still on the controls,

  7. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Mushroom

    On the bright side

    at that speed at least any debris from a collosion will quickly escape earths orbit and join the 1000s of space rocks already in solar orbit..

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: On the bright side

      Not if collision occurs during the inbound leg. In any event, the Canary islands will get the best view.

  8. Saint
    Mushroom

    Is it just me ?

    I would love to see them hit something big at 12km/sec ! That should be an awesome impact

    The moon might be too close, but there must be something out there we can attempt to destroy in the name of, errr, science

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