National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
News & Events
Rosetta Closing in on Comet
Rosetta Closing in on Comet
19 Jun 2014
(Source: NASA/JPL/ESA)

Black and white image of distant comet against a background of stars.
Rosetta's target comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, seen on 4 June 2014 by the OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera. The comet's activity has declined since April-May, showing the unpredictable nature of these objects. The image shows a quarter of the full field of OSIRIS and was taken with an exposure time of 67 seconds. Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Less than half the distance between Earth and moon separates Rosetta from its destination, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The European Space Agency's (ESA) spacecraft will become the first to orbit a comet and land a probe on its nucleus. It is beginning observations and sending science data back to Earth.

Recent images from Rosetta's Onboard Scientific Imaging System (OSIRIS) indicate that the comet is currently at rest -- no longer showing signs of an extended dust coma surrounding its nucleus. At the end of April, OSIRIS images revealed the comet was active -- spewing out enough gas and dust to create an extended coma. Upcoming images will offer even more information, as the comet is quickly covering more space in OSIRIS' field of view. Currently, comet 67P scales to about one pixel.

"It will still take a few weeks before we can discern a detailed shape," said OSIRIS Project Manager Carsten G?ttler from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottigen, Germany. "But we are now no longer restricted to studying the brightness of the nucleus."

Launched in March 2004, Rosetta was reactivated in January 2014 after a record 957 days in hibernation. Composed of an orbiter and lander, Rosetta's objectives upon arrival at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August are to study the celestial object up close in unprecedented detail, prepare for landing a probe on the comet's nucleus in November, and track its changes as it sweeps past the sun.

Comets are time capsules containing primitive material left over from the epoch when the sun and its planets formed. Rosetta's lander will obtain the first images taken from a comet's surface and will provide the first analysis of a comet's composition by drilling into the surface. Rosetta also 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.

Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by the German Aerospace Center, Cologne; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen; French National Space Agency, Paris; and the Italian Space Agency, Rome. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the U.S. participation in the Rosetta mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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


2014-197

DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-393-9011
agle@jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726
dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

Markus Bauer
European Space Agency, Noordwijk, Netherlands
011-31-71-565-6799
markus.bauer@esa.int

News Archive Search  Go!
Show  results per page
 
 
Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writer: Autumn Burdick
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> USA.gov
> ExpectMore.gov
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 19 Jun 2014