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Emily LakdawallaNovember 13, 2009

Rosetta Earth swingby successful

Rosetta appears to have operated flawlessly as it streaked past Earth for its flyby early this morning. Here are a few more gems from the flyby.

First is an actual sighting of the Rosetta spacecraft from Earth. Crazy to look up in the sky and see a fast-moving streak of light that's something we launched into space more than five years ago.

Earth sights Rosetta for the last time


Earth sights Rosetta for the last time
Although Rosetta will be "visible" at radio wavelengths as long as it's an active mission, the Earth flyby of November 13, 2009 will be the last time that we'll be able to see it in optical wavelengths. ESA's Optical Ground Station in Tenerife, Spain tracked Rosetta as the satellite approached Earth. This animation is composed of 18 images, each with a 15-second exposure time, separated by 69 seconds, spanning from 03:05 to 03:25. The field is located in the constellation of Cetus and has a size of 10 by 10 arcminutes. The telescope was tracking Rosetta so that the spacecraft appears as a dot in the center of the image while the stars appear as streaks.

Next is this long exposure of Earth's nightside. Try to see if you can recognize where it is without reading a caption. (Hint: I, generally a geography ignoramus, recognized it pretty quickly.)

Southeastern North America at night from Rosetta


Southeastern North America at night from Rosetta
Rosetta stared at Earth's night side for 10 seconds to gather the light from the cities of the eastern United States and Mexico as it flew past Earth at 04:44 UTC on November 13, 2009.

Finally, Rosetta's departing view of Earth. This one was shot by the navigational camera, not the much higher quality OSIRIS. The streaking of the image results, I think, from charge accumulating in the CCD as the camera looks at a target significantly brighter than it was designed to see. Earth's white clouds are much more reflective than the coal-dark nucleus of a comet.

Rosetta Navigational Camera view of Earth, November 13, 2009


Rosetta Navigational Camera view of Earth, November 13, 2009
Rosetta captured at 14:23 UTC, a few hours after its Earth flyby on November 13, 2009, using its navigational camera. The images were intended to test the camera's operation when a target fills the frame. The next object that will fill the navigational camera's field of view is the asteroid Lutetia, which Rosetta will encounter in 2010.

Read more: pics of Earth by planetary missions, Rosetta and Philae, pretty pictures, mission status, Earth, pics of hardware on earth, animation

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
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