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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Pretty pictures: Rosetta's comet is now acting like one!

Posted By Emily Lakdawalla

15-05-2014 10:17 CDT

Topics: Rosetta and Philae, pretty pictures, mission status, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, animation

As Rosetta crosses the last couple million kilometers separating it from its target comet, the spacecraft is snapping away with its OSIRIS camera. They take these images primarily for optical navigation -- to help steer toward the destination. But the photos have also caught the comet beginning to act like a comet, throwing off gas and dust to develop a coma that is already 1300 kilometers across, and growing. All this from a nucleus only 4 kilometers across.

Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko develops a coma, March 27 to May 4, 2014

ESA / Rosetta / MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / SSO / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA

Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko develops a coma, March 27 to May 4, 2014
A sequence of images showing comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko moving against a background star field in the constellation Ophiuchus between 27 March and 4 May 2014, as the distance between the spacecraft and comet closed from around 5 million to 2 million kilometers. The comet (and Rosetta) were between 640 million km and 610 million km from the Sun during the sequence. The comet is seen to develop a dust coma as the sequence progresses, with clear activity already visible in late April. Exposure times are 720 seconds for each image, taken with the OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera. The globular cluster M107 is also clearly visible in the field of view.

Here's a zoomed-in look at the comet on April 30:

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on April 30, 2014

ESA / Rosetta / MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / SSO / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on April 30, 2014
As Rosetta approached, cometary activity began on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The coma extends over 1300 kilometers from the nucleus.

Rosetta is now matching paces with the comet. The next rocket maneuver, a very large one, is planned for May 21. More information on ESA's website!

 
See other posts from May 2014

 

Read more blog entries about: Rosetta and Philae, pretty pictures, mission status, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, animation

Comments:

SJG: 05/16/2014 09:59 CDT

Thanks for this. What are all of the other light points "moving" in the gif? Artifacts from Rosetta's changing vantage point across the series?

glg: 05/17/2014 09:40 CDT

I'm also wondering about the white dots moving and in front of the two bright stars in the top center are moving black dots. The satellite, comet and stars are all moving in different directions. Registration marks? Do the cameras turn individually or does the whole satellite have to turn?

stone: 05/19/2014 08:00 CDT

The PI of the camera said that the small dots appearing in the images are cosmic ray hits. The see these hit even when the door is closed. One of his coworkers had no explanation for the dark spots on the top middle star.

Brandon Vincent: 05/22/2014 12:01 CDT

Best part for me is trying to count the number of cosmic ray hits that I can find. Beautiful.

suhani priya: 06/14/2014 01:10 CDT

wow that looks so beautiful awesome mann!!!

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