Some impressive numbers from Rosetta's mission. Click for full res!
Astronomers have captured the sharpest, most detailed observations of a comet breaking apart 67 million miles from Earth, using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The images suggest that the roughly 4.5-billion-year-old comet, named 332P/Ikeya-Murakami, or comet 332P, may be spinning so fast that material is ejected from its surface. The resulting debris is now scattered along a 3,000-mile-long trail, larger than the width of the continental United States.
As the Rosetta mission draws to a close next Friday, 30 September 2016, the CometWatch team here at ESA realised that this will be the last 'regular' entry of this popular feature on the blog (*) through which we have shared a great deal of views of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken with Rosetta's navigation camera (NAVCAM) since July 2014, shortly before Rosetta's arrival at the comet.
Brief but powerful outbursts seen from Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko during its most active period last year have been traced back to their origins on the surface. In the three months centred around the comet’s closest approach to the Sun, on 13 August 2015, Rosetta’s cameras captured 34 outbursts.
This new animation visualises Rosetta's last two months of trajectories around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
This week's CometWatch entry is a double feature, with two images of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from Rosetta's NAVCAM taken on 31 August and 11 September 2016, when the spacecraft was 8.8 and 9.8 km, respectively, from the centre of the comet nucleus.
Today's blog post features detailed information on the intense, behind-the-scenes activities during Rosetta's final weeks, courtesy of Sylvain Lodiot, Spacecraft Operations Manager, at ESOC, and Laurence O'Rourke, Rosetta Science Ground Segment – Science Operations Coordinator, at ESAC.
Squeezing out unique scientific observations until the very end, Rosetta’s thrilling mission will culminate with a descent on 30 September towards a region of active pits on the comet’s ‘head’.
On 30 September, Rosetta will descend towards a smooth region in Ma’at, on the smaller of the two lobes of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will target a region that is home to several active pits measuring over 100 m wide and over 50 m deep, with the hope to get some close-up glimpses of these fascinating features.
Rosetta’s dust-analysing COSIMA (COmetary Secondary Ion Mass Analyser) instrument has made the first unambiguous detection of solid organic matter in the dust particles ejected by Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, in the form of complex carbon-bearing molecules.