Rosetta: One Year At The Comet

The Rosetta spacecraft has been orbiting comet 67P/CG for a year now! And, not coincidently, the comet passed perihelion this week. And, of course, Rosetta will continue to collect data for another six months.

The point, of course, is that the comet has been heating up as it swings in, and now will steadily cool down again. Rosetta will give us the first comprehensive observations of this process from close up.

While I wish that there would be cool explosions or eruptions, the fact is that 67P/CG is still far out, and nothing is happening quickly. The comet is losing abotu 300 kg of water per second, as well as 1000 kg of dust per second.

ESA has collected some of the more spectacular visible effects.  One constructed sequence shows a number of bursts.

Sequence of OSIRIS narrow-angle camera images from 12 August 2015, just a few hours before the comet reached perihelion. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

 

The activity is significant enough to be visible from Earth (with a telescope).

Ground-based images of the comet from the Gemini Observatory taken over the past year. The image taken on 4 August 2015, which is also showed in a zoomed and enhanced version below, reveals some asymmetries in the comet’s tail. Credits: Gemini Observatory/AURA

In total, the observations are documenting the dramatic changes on 67P/CG, as it boils in the sun.

Cool!

 

Space Saturday

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