The Heart of a Comet Revealed


The Heart of a Comet Revealed

Pardon me, but this news is just not getting nearly enough coverage.  The European Space Agency has just completed a momentous achievement.  Rosetta, ESA’s spacecraft/probe has now become the very first probe to orbit a comet.  As Rosetta approached the (terribly named comet – Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko – I say we rename it to the more aptly named – ‘Wobbling Duck’) comet it became clear that there are two main sections connected by a neck that holds it together.

To put this feat in perspective, the trip took Rosetta ten and a half years to complete.  The craft looped around the sun five times and traveled over 6.4 billion kilometers.  What is that?  Almost 3 billion miles?  The path heading towards the comet was not straight forward at all.  It required 3 gravity assist flybys of earth as well as a gravity assist of Mars as well.  The path even allowed Rosetta to swing by two different asteroids, Šteins and Lutetia, as it continued its acceleration towards Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  


Not only is Rosetta the first successful orbiting of a comet, but later this year, Rosetta is planning to send a lander – named Philae – to the surface of the comet.  Speaking of which, here is a shot of the surface of the comet.