Rosetta Orbiter to Swoop Down On Comet in February
ESA - Rosetta Mission patch.
December 17, 2014
Rosetta Fields of View
Video above: This animation shows Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, with overlay boxes indicating the fields of view of three cameras on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft: the wide angle camera of OSIRIS, the narrow angle camera of OSIRIS and the spacecraft’s Navigation Camera.
The European Space Agency’s orbiting Rosetta spacecraft is expected to come within four miles (six kilometers) of the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in February of next year. The flyby will be the closest the comet explorer will come during its prime mission.
Image above: From the location where it came to rest after bounces, the Philae lander of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission captured this view of a cliff on the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The feature is called “Perihelion Cliff.” The image is from the lander’s CIVA camera. Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA.
“It is the earliest we could carry it out without impacting the vitally important bound orbits that are currently being flown,” said Matt Taylor, the Rosetta project scientist from the European Space Research and Technology Center, Noordwijk, the Netherlands. “As the comet becomes more and more active, it will not be possible to get so close to the comet. So this opportunity is very unique.”
The low flyby will be an opportunity for Rosetta to obtain imagery with a resolution of a few inches (tens of centimeters) per pixel. The imagery is expected to provide information on the comet’s porosity and albedo (its reflectance). The flyby will also allow the study of the processes by which cometary dust is accelerated by the cometary gas emission.
Image above: This mosaic of images from the navigation camera on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft shows the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it appeared at 5 a.m. UTC on Dec. 17, 2014 (9 p.m. PST on Dec. 16). Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM.
“Rosetta is providing us with a grandstand seat of the comet throughout the next year. This flyby will put us track side — it’s going to be that close,” said Taylor.
The Rosetta orbiter deployed its Philae lander to one spot on the comet’s surface in November. Philae obtained the first images taken from a comet’s surface and will provide analysis of the comet’s possible primordial composition.
Comets are time capsules containing primitive material left over from the epoch when our sun and its planets formed. Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to witness at close proximity how a comet changes as it is subjected to the increasing intensity of the sun’s radiation. Observations will help scientists learn more about the origin and evolution of our solar system and the role comets may have played in seeding Earth with water, and perhaps even life.
Image above: This graphic depicts the position of the Philae lander of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission, and a nearby cliff photographed by the lander, in the context of topographic modeling of the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s nucleus. Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CNES/FD/CIVA.
Rosetta is a European Space Agency mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the U.S. contribution of the Rosetta mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL also built the MIRO instrument and hosts its principal investigator, Samuel Gulkis. The Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio and Boulder) developed the Rosetta orbiter’s IES and Alice instruments, and hosts their principal investigators, James Burch (IES) and Alan Stern (Alice).
For more information on the U.S. instruments aboard Rosetta, visit: http://rosetta.jpl.nasa.gov
More information about Rosetta is available at: http://www.esa.int/rosetta
Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/DC Agle/ESA/Markus Bauer.