Rosetta swings past home one final time

By Phil Plait | November 11, 2009 8:00 am

rosettaThe European Space Agency probe Rosetta is on its way to comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko (by way of asteroid 21 Lutetia next July), where it will arrive in May of 2014. It will be dropping a lander — the first ever attempted on a comet — and our knowledge of these fuzzy visitors will increase enormously.

But getting there is tough, and involves swinging by the Earth three times and Mars once. The final gravity assist will occur on November 13, with closest approach at 08:45 CET (over, roughly, the island of Java) when it’ll be moving past us at 13.3 km/sec (almost 30,000 mph). While it’s passing us by it will observe both the Earth and Moon, doing as much science as it can before heading out into deep space. Specifically, it will add its sensors to those already studying water on the Moon, as well as aurorae on Earth.

You can follow the action on the Rosetta blog. In fact, just the other day they posted this awesome shot of the Moon from Rosetta:

rosetta_moon

That was taken form a distance of 4.3 million kilometers (2.5 million miles), ten times the distance of the Moon from the Earth. The images as it gets closer will be even cooler.

So stay tuned! This is a very exciting mission, especially next year when it passes Lutetia! I can never see enough closeup pictures of asteroids.

Spacecraft image credit: ESA, image by AOES Medialab

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Space

Comments (14)

Links to this Post

  1. Phil Plait: Rosetta takes some home pictures « fehlmann.net | November 13, 2009
  1. What is it about asteroids? I love the photos of them I’ve seen.

  2. Cheyenne

    world wide web.newscientist.com/article/dn18135-will-probes-upcoming-flyby-unlock-exotic-physics.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=space

    Another thing that is interesting about this probe is that the gravity assists are actually giving the spacecraft more of a kick than was calculated.

    “General relativity predicts that spinning bodies distort the fabric of surrounding space, but the expected amount is far too small to explain the observed anomalies.” – New Scientist

    The universe never fails to surprise.

  3. ColinB

    2014? – too bad we won’t be around to see that, what with 2012 and all! ;-P

  4. Siguy

    Don’t worry about 2007 VN84, it turns out it isn’t an impact threat after all.

  5. Sili

    I love how these spacecraft are used to study anything and everything within sight.

  6. The Other Ian

    “Lander” is a bit of a misnomer. It’s more a docking action than a landing, really.

  7. DrFlimmer

    Lutetia? I wonder if it will meet Asterix and Obelix (are these guys known in the English speaking world?)…

  8. Levi in NY

    Fake! There are no background stars in that picture! ;)

  9. 7. DrFlimmer Says:

    Lutetia? I wonder if it will meet Asterix and Obelix (are these guys known in the English speaking world?)…

    Known, yes. Well known, maybe not except among ‘comics geeks’. I have a copy of one of the stories/books – haven’t read it in quite a while, so don’t recall exactly which one.

    J/P=?

  10. Does anyone else start humming a Ricard Strauss tune when looking at that image?

    - Jack

  11. StevoR

    @ 2. Cheyenne Says:

    Another thing that is interesting about this probe is that the gravity assists are actually giving the spacecraft more of a kick than was calculated.

    “General relativity predicts that spinning bodies distort the fabric of surrounding space, but the expected amount is far too small to explain the observed anomalies.” – New Scientist.

    Wasn’t there a similar sort of anomaly with the Pioneer</i. 10 & 11 and Voyager 1 & 2 spaceprobes?

    @ 5. Sili Says:

    I love how these spacecraft are used to study anything and everything within sight.

    Yes, but then it’d be crazy not too! ;-)

    @ 7. DrFlimmer Says:

    Lutetia? I wonder if it will meet Asterix and Obelix (are these guys known in the English speaking world?)…

    We get ‘Asterix’ here in Oz anyway. As John Paradox said they’re known & I’ve certainly read a few of them as a kid. But I don’t recall Lutetia from them.

    It’ll be great to add another comet and asteroid to the list of those observed close-up by spaceprobes.

    One question though – how active will the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko be at the time? Also will it be visible in binoculars or telescope or even unaided eye at the time of the rendezvous?

  12. DrFlimmer

    @ Jon Paradox and StevoR

    Thanks ;) Lutetia was the Roman name for the city that is called Paris, today. At least, this is what I know from the comics :D

  13. Blaidd Drwg

    I just hope the lander is well-shielded against heat. After all, we KNOW (courtesy of Jim McCaney) that comets are huge, blazing balls of fire, not the “dirty snowball” the so-called “scientists” would have us believe.

    *snark mode off*

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