Tag: rosetta mission

Amazing Images of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
Comet 67P/C-G is about as large as Central Park of Manhattan Island, New York

Excerpt from nytimes.com


The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft caught up with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko last August, then dropped a lander onto the comet in November. Now Rosetta will follow the rubber-duck-shaped comet as it swings closer to the sun.
Scale in miles
Scale in km
Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/2 MILE

March 9 Rosetta was 45 miles from Comet 67P/C-G when it photographed the comet’s head ringed with a halo of gas and dust. These jets extend from active areas of the comet’s surface and will become much more prominent over the next few months as the comet approaches the sun.
Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/2 MILE

March 6 The comet’s head is angled down in this image of crisscrossing sunlit jets taken from 53 miles away.
Comet’s location when Rosetta was launched Rosetta launched in March 2004
with Comet
Orbit of
Rosetta today

Where is Rosetta? The Rosetta spacecraft took 10 years to match speed and direction with Comet 67P/C-G. The chase ended last August, and Rosetta will now follow the comet in its elliptical orbit as it moves closer to the sun. The spacecraft is no longer orbiting the comet because of increasing dust, but it is planning a series of close flybys.
Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/2 MILE

March 6 Rosetta was 52 miles away when it looked up at the comet’s flat underbelly. The smooth plain at center covered with large boulders is named Imhotep.
Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/2 MILE

Feb. 28 Rosetta captured a profile of the comet surrounded by curving jets of gas and dust from active regions. The spacecraft was 64 miles away.

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.

Feb. 25–27 One day on Comet 67P/C-G is about 12 hours, the time it takes the comet to spin on its axis. The jets of gas and dust surrounding the comet are thought to curve from a combination of the comet’s rotation and the uneven gravity of its two-lobed structure.
Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/2 MILE

Feb. 20 The comet’s sunlit underbelly casts a shadow obscuring the neck that joins the two lobes. Rosetta took this image from 74 miles away.
Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.

Feb. 18 Pale jets of gas and dust surround Comet 67P/C-G, seen from 123 miles away. Bright marks in the background are a mix of stars, camera noise and streaks from small particles ejected from the comet.
Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/4 MILE
Panorama by The New York Times

Feb. 14 On Valentine’s Day, Rosetta made its first close flyby of the comet, passing within four miles of the surface. Here the spacecraft looks down on the large depression at the top of the comet’s head.

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
500 FEET

Feb. 14 An image of the comet’s underbelly taken six miles above the surface during the Valentine’s Day flyby. The smooth plain in the foreground is called Imhotep.

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/2 MILE

Feb. 9 The comet is upside down in this image from 65 miles away, and a fan-shaped jet of dust streams from the comet’s neck region.

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/2 MILE

Feb. 6 Jets of gas and dust extend from the comet’s neck and other sunlit areas in this image taken from 77 miles away.

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/4 MILE

Feb. 3 This close-up image of the comet’s neck was taken from 18 miles away, and was the last image taken from orbit around Comet 67P/C-G. Rosetta will continue to follow the comet, but will leave its gravity-bound orbit because of increasing dust and instead begin a series of flybys.

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/4 MILE

Jan. 31 The comet’s head, neck and back are sunlit in this image taken from 17 miles away. A prominent jet of gas and dust extends from an active region of the surface near the comet’s neck.

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/4 MILE

Jan. 16 The tail of the comet’s larger lobe points up, revealing a smooth plain named Imhotep at left. Rosetta was 18 miles away when it took this image.

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/4 MILE

Jan. 3 The smooth plain named Imhotep, at center right, lies on the comet’s flat underbelly, seen here from a distance of about 18 miles.

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/4 MILE

Dec. 14, 2014 The large triangular boulder on the flat Imhotep plain is named Cheops, after the Egyptian pyramid. The spacecraft was about 12 miles from the comet when it took this image.

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/4 MILE

Dec. 10 Sunlight falls between the body and head of the comet, lighting up a large group of boulders in the smooth Hapi region of the comet’s neck. To the right of the boulders, the cliffs of Hathor form the underside of the comet’s head. Rosetta took this image from a distance of 12 miles.

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/4 MILE

Dec. 2 The round depression in the middle of the comet’s head is filled with shadow in this image taken 12 miles above the comet.

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
1/4 MILE

Nov. 22 An overexposed image of Comet 67P/C-G from 19 miles away shows faint jets of gas and dust extending from the sunlit side of the comet.

Philae photo from the surface of Comet 67P/C-G.

Nov. 12 Rosetta’s washing-machine sized lander Philae successfully touched down on the comet’s head. But anchoring harpoons failed and Philae bounced twice before going missing in the shadow of a cliff or crater (above). Without sunlight Philae quickly lost power, but might revive as the comet gets closer to the sun. On March 12, Rosetta resumed listening for radio signals from the missing lander.

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.

Photo illustration by The New York Times

How big is the comet? The body of Comet 67P/C-G is about as long as Central Park. For images of Rosetta’s rendezvous and the Philae landing, see Landing on a Comet, 317 Million Miles From Home.

Sources: European Space Agency and the Rosetta mission. Images by ESA/Rosetta, except where noted. Some images are composite panoramas created by ESA, and most images were processed by ESA to bring out details of the comet’s activity.

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Rosetta spacecraft raises new questions about comet’s origin

Excerpt from news.asiaone.com CAPE CANAVERAL, US - Scientists using Europe's comet-orbiting Rosetta spacecraft have discovered that the complicated ancient body is coated with surprisingly simple organic molecules and surrounded by a changing clou...

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Rosetta’s Comet Lander Will Revive After Bumpy Touchdown, Scientists Say

Mosaic of four images taken by Rosetta's navigation camera (NAVCAM) on 10 December 2014 at 20.1 km from the centre of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The ESA comet lander Philae came to rest between two shadowed cliffs, limiting the sunlight hitting the lander's solar panels, but scientists hope the lander can be revived by February as more light arrives. This image of the comet's surface is a mosaic of four taken by Rosetta's navigation camera on December 10.

Hopes rise for reviving the hibernating lander's solar power as comet receives more sunlight.

Excerpt from news.nationalgeographic.com

SAN FRANCISCO—Fear not for Philae: The little lost lander could reawaken as soon as February, the Rosetta mission team said Wednesday. Increasing sunlight almost guarantees an end to the probe's current hibernation on a comet racing toward the sun.

The European Space Agency's $1.75-billion mission sent the lander to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12 in an audacious, if bumpy, touchdown on the double-lobed comet. It was the first soft landing attempt on a comet.

The lander bounced after an anchoring harpoon failed to fire, turning initial elation to disappointment. After a two-hour bounce, Philae came to rest with one of its three feet planted on the comet and the others angled between two shadowed cliffs.

Those cliffs allow, for now, only 4 hours and 33 minutes of uninterrupted sunlight per day to the probe's solar panels, not enough to restart it. But the mission team announced at the American Geophysical Union meeting that more sunshine is on the way.

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Is this what Rosetta’s comet really looks like in color?

This image depicts a more colorful view of 67PExcerpt from cnet.comA color image of Rosetta's comet buddy has emerged online and may shine some brightness on a comet that has become famous in black and white. Move over, Halley: 67P/Churyumov-Gerasime...

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Rosetta Mission: European Space Agency Scientists Worry Philae Probe Is Running Out of Battery Power

Philae lander harpooned into comet

Excerpt from online.wsj.com

By Gautam Naik & Robert Wall

Situation Could Mean Early End for Important Experiments on Comet 

Scientists at the European Space Agency fear that the Philae probe now sitting on a comet’s surface may be on the verge of running out of battery power, a scenario that could bring key scientific experiments to a premature end.

The researchers will only know whether the primary batteries have drained or not late Friday, when they try to re-establish a radio link to the probe via Rosetta, a spacecraft in orbit around the comet. The probe and Rosetta can typically communicate twice a day because at other times the orbiter is below the horizon and can’t establish a direct signal.

Scientists are hoping to get contact around 10 p.m. German time, said Stephan Ulamec, who oversees operation for the lander. But if Philae fails to send a signal, he added, it would mean the battery had run out of juice.

The plan was for Philae to do scientific experiments for an initial 2 ½ days on primary battery power and then switch to solar panels that would keep it ticking for another three months. But because of an awkward landing near the face of cliff, the probe’s solar panels are being exposed to far less sunlight than was expected.

Despite the hitch, Philae has already done a significant amount of science on its new home. Its 10 instruments have so far garnered between 80%-90% of the data they were designed to collect, according to Dr. Ulamec.

It has beamed back detailed photographs of the comet’s rough terrain, analyzed the gases, and taken the comet’s temperature. It is now using radio waves to probe the comet’s nucleus and searching for organic molecules on the hostile surface.

Anticipating a possible loss of battery power, ESA scientists activated a drill during their last contact with the lander. The machine is designed to dig up the comet’s subsurface material and rotate it through an onboard oven to investigate its components. 

There may still be a way to extend Philae’s working life. During every 12-hour rotation of the comet, one of the lander’s solar panels is now exposed to an hour and 20 minutes of sunlight, while two other panels get the sun for less than 30 minutes each. 

Provided the signal to Philae can be re-established, scientists said they could rotate the lander slightly so that one of its larger solar panels can catch more sunlight. Another option is to eject the probe from its current location in the hope it lands in a spot where there is more sun.

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Rosetta mission: Philae lander bounces twice, lands on side ~ Cliff face blocking solar power

How Esa scientists believe Philae has landed on the comet – on its side
How Esa scientists believe Philae has landed on the comet – on its side. Photograph: European Space Agency/Reuters

Excerpt from

Rosetta mission controllers must decide whether to risk making lander hop from shadow of cliff blocking sunlight to its solar panels.

The robotic lander that touched down on a comet on Wednesday came to rest on its side in the shadow of a cliff, according to the first data beamed home from the probe.

Pictures from cameras on board the European Space Agency’s Philae lander show the machine with one foot in the sky and lodged against a high cliff face that is blocking sunlight to its solar panels.
The precarious resting place means mission controllers are faced with some tough decisions over whether to try and nudge the spacecraft into a sunnier spot. If successful, that would allow Philae to fully recharge its batteries and do more science on the comet, but any sudden move could risk toppling the lander over, or worse, knock it off the comet completely.

The washing machine-sized lander was released by its Rosetta mother ship at 0835am GMT on Wednesday morning and touched down at a perfect spot on the comet’s surface. But when anchoring harpoons failed to fire, the probe bounced back off into space. So weak is the gravitational pull of the comet that Philae soared 1km into the sky and did not come down again until two hours later. “We made quite a leap,” said Stephan Ulamec, the Philae lander manager.

In the time it took the probe to land for the second time, the comet had rotated, bringing more treacherous terrain underneath. The spacecraft bounced a second time and finally came to a standstill on its side at what may be the rim of an enormous crater.

“We bounced twice and stopped in a place we’ve not entirely located,” said Jean-Pierre Bibring, Philae’s lead scientist. Teams of scientists are now trying to work out where the probe is. What mission controllers do know is that they are not where they hoped to be. “We are exactly below a cliff, so we are in a shadow permanently,” Bibring added.

With most of Philae in the dark, the lander will receive only a fraction of the solar energy that Esa had hoped for. The spacecraft needs six or seven hours of sunlight a day but is expected to receive just one and a half. Though it can operate for 60 hours on primary batteries, the probe must then switch to its main batteries which need to be recharged through its solar arrays. If Philae’s batteries run out it will go into a hibernation mode until they have more power.

The spacecraft was designed with landing gear that could hop the probe around, but from its awkward position on its side the option is considered too risky.

Though caught in a tight spot, the Philae lander’s systems appear to be working well. The Rosetta spacecraft picked up the lander’s signal on Thursday morning and received the first images and more instrument data from the surface of the comet.

One of Philae’s major scientific goals is to analyse the comet for organic molecules. To do that, the lander must get samples from the comet into several different instruments, named Ptolemy, Cosac and Civa. There are two ways to do this: sniffing and drilling. Sniffing involves opening the instruments to allow molecules from the surface to drift inside. The instruments are already doing this and returning data.

Panoramic view around the point of Philae's final touchdown on the surface of comet 67P, taken when Rosetta was about 18km from centre of comet. Parts of Philae's landing gear can be seen in this picture.
Panoramic view around the point of Philae’s final touchdown on the surface of comet 67P, taken when Rosetta was about 18km from centre of comet. Parts of Philae’s landing gear can be seen in this picture.Photograph: European Space Agency/AFP/Getty Images

Drilling is much riskier because it could make the lander topple over... Pushing down into the surface will push the lander off again. “We don’t want to start drilling and end the mission,” said Bibring.
But the team has decided to operate another moving instrument, named Mupus, on Thursday evening. This could cause Philae to shift, but calculations show that it would be in a direction that could improve the amount of sunlight falling on the probe. A change in angle of only a few degrees could help. A new panoramic image will be taken after the Mupus deployment to see if there has been any movement.

Meanwhile, the Rosetta orbiter team will continue to try to pinpoint Philae’s position.

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The Mission to land robot on comet to take final step

Excerpt from  theglobeandmail.com
By Ivan Semeniuk

Half a billion kilometres from Earth and 10 years into its remarkable journey, a small robot is about to plunge into space history.

Pending a final green light from mission controllers on Tuesday night, the robot – nicknamed Philae (fee-lay) – will detach from its mother ship and try to hook itself onto one of the most challenging and mysterious objects in the solar system.

It’s a high-risk manoeuvre with plenty of unknowns. But if it works, then the probe will be able to show us what no one has ever experienced: what it’s like to stand on the surface of a comet.

“Comets are new territory,” said Ralf Gellert, a professor of physics at the University of Guelph. “There could be some big surprises.”

Prof. Gellert should know. Fifteen years ago, he helped build one of the instruments on the dishwasher-size lander that will reveal the comet’s composition. No such direct measurement has been made before. Even designing how the instrument should work was fraught with challenges since there was so little known about what kind of surface the lander might find itself on.

“Is it an ice ball with rock and trace metals, or a rock ball with ice on it … or ice below the surface? We didn’t know,” he said.
And scientists still don’t.

When the European Space Agency launched the Rosetta mission in 2004, the mission’s target – Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko – was little more than a fuzzy blip in astronomers’ telescopes. But Rosetta just arrived in August and it’s been in orbit around the comet since then.

What was assumed to be a single, homogeneous lump of ice and rock has turned out to be a bizarre-looking object in two parts, arranged a bit like the head and body of a rubber duck. By October, scientists had zeroed in on the head portion, which is four kilometres across at its widest point, and settled on a landing site.

Remote sensing data from Rosetta suggest that the comet is quite porous, with a surface that is as black as coal and somewhat warmer than expected. In other words, Philae will probably not be landing on skating-rink-hard ice. Yet, whether the surface will be crusty like a roadside snowbank, fluffy like cigarette ash, or something else entirely is anyone’s guess.

And while scientists and engineers say they’ve done everything they can think of to maximize the lander’s chance of success, they acknowledge it’s entirely possible that Philae will encounter something it can’t handle and smash to bits or sink into oblivion.

Yet the landing is more than a daring jaunt to see what has never been seen before. Comets are also among the most primitive bodies in the solar system. Each one is an amalgam of ice and rock that has been around since Earth and its sister planets formed billions of years ago. In a sense, comets are the leftovers of that process – primordial fossils from the birth of the solar system.

The instrument Prof. Gellert worked on, known as the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS), will help illuminate this early period by making precise measurements of the comet’s elemental ingredients.

It is carried on a robot arm that will place a radioactive source near the comet’s surface. The particles and X-rays the comet material gives off as a result of this exposure will provide detailed information about what chemical elements the comet contains. This will be augmented by another experiment designed to drill and extract a comet sample for analysis inside the lander.

Prof. Gellert, who has also been closely involved in NASA’s Mars rover missions, said Rosetta’s long timeline and the many unknowns related to the comet makes this week’s landing a trickier proposition than landing on Mars – but also a tremendously exciting one.

“I think it’s a matter of hope for the best and see what happens.”

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European Spacecraft to Make Historic Comet Landing on November 12th, 2014

Europe Unveils Comet Landing Site for Historic Rosetta Mission

 One of the boldest and most dramatic maneuvers in the history of spaceflight is just six weeks away.

On Nov. 12, the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe will try to drop a robotic lander onto the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which Rosetta has been orbiting since early August. No spacecraft has ever attempted a soft landing on a comet before.

The current plan calls for the lander, named Philae, to come down at a location on Comet 67P that the mission team has dubbed Site J.

"Site J was chosen unanimously over four other candidate sites as the primary landing site because the majority of terrain within a square kilometer [0.4 square miles] area has slopes of less than 30 degrees relative to the local vertical and because there are relatively few large boulders," European Space Agency (ESA) officials said in a statement.

"The area also receives sufficient daily illumination to recharge Philae and continue surface science operations beyond the initial 64-hour battery-powered phase," they added.

If all goes according to plan, Rosetta will deploy Philae at 4:35 a.m. EDT (0835 GMT) on Nov. 12, at a distance of 14 miles (22.5 km) from the comet. Philae will spiral down slowly toward 67P, eventually securing itself to the surface with harpoons at Site J around 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT) that same day.

European Spacecraft to Make Historic Comet Landing on Nov. 12
This image from Europe's Rosetta spacecraft shows the mission's planned landing site on Comet 67P/Churyum

Confirmation of the historic maneuver's success or failure will come 28 minutes and 20 seconds later — the amount of time it takes for signals to travel from Rosetta to its controllers here on the ground.It's also possible that Philae could touch down at a backup location called Site C, ESA officials said. Final confirmation of the landing plan will come on Oct. 14, after a formal review of data gathered by the Rosetta mothership. ESA will also launch a public competition to name Philae's landing site on that date.

The $1.7 billion (1.3 billion euros) Rosetta mission blasted off in March 2004 and finally arrived in orbit around Comet 67P on Aug. 6 of this year. The Rosetta orbiter is studying the 2.5-mile-wide (4 km) comet with 11 different science instruments, and Philae will contribute by photographing 67P's surface and collecting and analyzing samples.

Comet 67P, which takes 6.5 years to complete one lap around the sun, is now getting closer and closer to our star. Rosetta and Philae will continue to observe the comet and study how it changes as it warms up on its trek through the inner solar system.

The goal is to better understand the composition and behavior of comets, which are remnants from the solar system's formation 4.6 billion years ago, ESA officials have said. Rosetta is expected to continue gathering data through December 2015.

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Rosetta’s Comet Releasing Jets of Water

This artist's impression shows the Rosetta orbiter at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image is not to scale. Image Credit: ESA/ATG Medialabjpl.nasa.govComet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is releasing the Earthly equivalent of two glasses of water i...

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