Monday, February 16, 2015

Wonderful New Image of Comet We Are Flying Along With

The Rosetta spacecraft is continuing to circle Comet 67P (also known as Comet C-G) and send back amazing images. The picture accompanying this post was taken on Feb. 6 at a distance of 75 miles from the comet.

Rosetta, a mission by the European Space Agency, is flying along the icy chunk that is the comet, accompanying it on its long voyage to whip around the Sun. As we get closer, the ice of the comet will evaporate more and more, and great jets of gas will be seen coming from the comet. (Ice turns directly into gas in the vacuum of space.) You can see the beginning of this activity on our photo.

For the sake of honesty, we should mention that this 6-second image was processed to make the faint jets appear brighter and more easily visible.

We now know that the comet consists of two sections (called lobes, likes the two parts of your brain) connected by a slender neck. The bigger lobe is about 2.5 miles across, while the smaller one is about 1.5 miles wide. The jets seem to be coming from the neck region, which has been named Hapi, after the god in Egyptian mythology who makes the Nile River flood every year.

As the comet continues toward the Sun for its August closest approach, we expect many more spectacular jets to erupt on its surface. Stay tuned for wonderful images!

To see a first map of the regions on Comet 67P and what Egyptian gods the ESA scientists have named them after, see:

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