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Rosetta: advancing cometary science

Rosetta: advancing cometary science

Rosetta was the first mission to orbit a comet and the first mission to land on a comet. Since its arrival at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 6 August 2014, Rosetta’s data has also transformed cometary science.

Rosetta’s lander Philae has been identified in OSIRIS narrow-angle camera images taken on 2 September 2016 from a distance of 2.7 km. The image scale is about 5 cm/pixel. Philae’s 1 m-wide body and two of its three legs can be seen extended from the body. The images also provide proof of Philae’s orientation.

Rosetta Navigation Camera images taken on 16 April 2015 are shown here for context, with the approximate location of Philae on the small lobe of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko as marked.

Rosetta is destined to make a controlled impact into the Ma’at region of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 30 September 2016, targeting a point within a 700 x 500 m ellipse (a very approximate outline is marked on the image).

The target area is home to several active pits measuring over 100 m across and 60 m deep, from which a number of the comet’s dust jets originate. Some of the pit walls also exhibit intriguing metre-sized lumpy structures called ‘goosebumps’, which could be the signatures of early cometesimals that agglomerated to create the comet in the early phases of Solar System formation.

Rosetta’s final descent may afford detailed close-up views of these features.