The short coma of Rosetta

A comet is an icy small Solar System body that, when passing close to the Sun, heats up and begins to outgas, displaying a visible atmosphere or coma, and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind upon the nucleus of the comet. Comet nuclei range from a few hundred meters to tens of kilometers across and are composed of loose collections of ice, dust, and small rocky particles. The coma and tail are much larger and, if sufficiently bright, may be seen from the Earth without the aid of a telescope. Comets have been observed and recorded since ancient times by many different cultures.
Figure-1-664x664Source: NASA/ESA

Contrary to the observations made in April to mid-May, the Osiris camera on the spacecraft shows a shorter and luminescent coma.
From 100 km distance, to 50, 30 and then, defying all expectations, to just 10 km, Rosetta continues to captivate and intrigue with every image and every data packet returned.
Less than half of the distance between the Earth and the Moon divides the ESA’s Rosetta probe and its target, the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It teaches us that it is wrong to expect the unexpected. But there is more, an even greater challenge, another ambitious first: to land on the comet.
“Next month, we’ll be attempting to land on the comet, and with our orbiting spacecraft, we’ll continue to keep pace with the comet for another year or more, watching how it evolves over time.”
The stage is set. The date: 12 November 2014.
With the arrival of Rosetta at 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko – an astonishing, audacious technical achievement, literally the things of science fiction – we are on the brink of an audacious new chapter in our understanding of our place in the Universe.
Rosetta is less than 10 km from the comet, and both are racing through space at over 60 000 km/h,” says Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist.

Source: NASA/ESA

An unusual fact was not because it is the first time that astronomers observe the coma of a comet so continuously and so near. The closer you get, the inevitably more detailed images appear on Osiris camera, built by the Max Planck Institute in cooperation with the CISAS of Padua. The fact is that it is barely a couple of months for the Rosetta spacecraft arrives at the comet and just recently started the operations of slowdown. A complex operation you can see in the service of INAF TV.
The Rosetta mission is a mission of the European Space Agency. Important is the Italian contribution to science and technology and see, through the support of the Italian Space Agency, the participation of INAF, UNIPD and Politecnico di Milano.
The Lander Philae, which will land at the end of the year in the core of comet, a first, is the result of collaboration between the European Space Agency and some other agencies: ASI, CNES, DLR, MPS.

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