Category Archives: Rosetta

Rosetta’s Comet Seen From Earth


What a really great image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko!

The image was taken from the 2 meter Liverpool Telescope on 19 July 2015 (Credit: Colin Snodgrass / Geraint Jones / Liverpool Telecope). The tail is estimated to be 120,000 km / 75,565 miles.

There ia an excellent Q&A titled: CHASING A COMET FROM EARTH – UPDATE ON THE PROFESSIONAL OBSERVING CAMPAIGN on the Rosetta Blog. Definately worth the visit.

Rosetta Blog will be updating the  Amateur Observation Campaign in the near future.

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Active Pits on Rosetta’s Comet


On 20 September 2014, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft made an extremely close pass to Comet 67/P Churyumov–Gerasimenko. This image was taken from just 26 km / 16 miles from the surface.

There are 18 pits identified on 67/G-C, each named for the region they are in. Some are active and some are not. This image shows the Seth series of pits, Seth_01 is the one in the center and the easiet to recognize. See this ESA post for more location information. Seth_01 is 220 m / 722 feet across and 185 m / 607 feet deep. We don’t see activity in the image, however the diversity of the terrain was the goal.

I will admit to fiddling with the image to see if I could bring out some activty but I could not. One has to wonder if the same image was taken today if activity would be seen.


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Shining Boulders

khepryiceThese images from the Rosetta orbiter around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko show what appear to be a shiny rock outcrop in the Khepry region (top image) and a lone boulder in the Hatmehit region (bottom image). There have been 120 such areas like these found on the comet.

These particular images were taken last September from about 20 km.

What are the shiny objects? They are thought to be exposed patches of water-ice!

Panspermia anyone?

Check out the full story: Exposed water ice detected on comet’s surface

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Rosetta’s View of the Comet


This is a view of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko just before receiving the long awaited signal from Philae on 13 June. Rosetta was just 201 km / 125 miles from the center of the comet at the time. The image has the small lobe to the right and the depression called Hatmehit is visible. Philae is thought to be situated near the top right of the image just outside the rim.

Philae is receiving enough sunlight to attain an acceptable operation temperature and generate electricity. The local “comet day” the power generated rises from about 13 watts at sunrise to a bit more than 24 watts. the power required to turn on the transmitter is 19 watts. I should note the comet has about a 12 hour rotation and the day light cycle is some portion of that and may be more or less than half the time. The time the solar panels receive power is 135 minutes during the daylight cycle.

While the information we have is very preliminary, it appears that the lander is in as good a condition as we could have hoped,” says Dr Ulamec.

Get all the details here.
Copyright ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

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Rosetta Update


I know, it’s been a while.  Rosetta is still orbiting Comet 67P/Churymov-Gerasineko and the spacecraft is doing well.
It has to be, the distance between Rosetta and the comet is 200 km / 124 miles and the pair
are moving at 30.91 km/s / 69,143 mph!

The comet is a little over 310,344,000 km / 192,839,000 miles. The pair should be closing
in on the orbit of Mars, which it will do at a fairly shallow angle.

As the pair gets closer the expected increase in activity in terms of streamers coming off the comet is occurring.

The Rosetta blog shows an enhanced version and a nice description including topographical  features of the comet.


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Waiting for Philae

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credits ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credits ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

A Rosetta NAVCAM image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from 81.4 km / 50.6 miles. ESA did a nice job of processing the image in order to bring out some of the outflow. The outflow should become more evident over time and give 67P/G-C the classic comet look.

In the mean time Rosetta is intermittently sending radio signals to the Philae lander to establish contact. So far nothing has been heard from the little lander. Possibly the solar panels have not built up enough power in the systems to function or maybe it is just too cold. The lander remains in hibernation.

Philae needs an internal temperature above -45 C / -49 F and five watts of power to turn on – which is pretty impressive. The lander needs to be able to generate 19 watts in order to send signals to Rosetta.

ESA is choosing when to send signals to Philae so the alignment between it and Rosetta and presumably the sun to have the best chance for success. The first half of April will be the next best opportunity to contact.

If you click the image above you will see a version with some of the craters labeled.

Have a look at Rosetta Blog “Waiting patently for Philae” for more detail.

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Rosetta’s Shadow

Rosetta's shadow on Comet 67/C-G taken on 14 February 2015. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Rosetta’s shadow on Comet 67/C-G taken on 14 February 2015. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Here’s something you don’t see very often or ever for that matter. We can see the shadow of ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

During the close flybys of a couple week ago, only 6 km separated spacecraft and comet. During the flyby the sun was directly between sun and comet so a shadow of about 20 x 50 meters (66 x 164 feet) was projected onto the comet. ESA was able to capture the image with the OSIRIS camera.

The pair were about 2.35 AU from the Sun so if I did the math correctly the light levels would be approximately 5.5 times less bright than what we see around us.

Approximate brightness relative to us is about the distance in AU (astronomical units) to the power of 2,

2.35 AU 2 = 5.5 (in this case 5.5 X dimmer)

Is this a first? I can’t think of any example of shadows on other comet encounters.

ESA has a nice write up and more pictures at the Rosetta blog, check it out.

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Perihelion Cliff

Philae's view of its home, Perihelion Cliff. Image(s) Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA/CNES/FD via NASA
Philae’s view of its home, Perihelion Cliff. Image(s) Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA/CNES/FD via NASA

Rosetta’s Philae lander too this picture of its home, Perihelion Cliff, on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Philae was released by Rosetta on 12 November 2014. The landing did not go quite as planned and the anchor harpoons did not fire. After the initial impact Philae did start sending back data, turns out the lander actually bounced twice. Philae is at the bottom of a cliff and is shaded so there is no power being generated by the solar panels. Click here to get a representation of the landing location.

Contact with the lander was lost when the batteries aboard Philae ran down. Philae may have no power there is hope in August 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will be close enough to the sun for the solar panels on Philae to get enough light to return to life.

Rosetta Blog

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