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.