Meeting with a comet today

    Two years ago, an incredible landing of the Curiosity rover to Mars took place, and today there is an equally complicated and important event in the Solar System - the Rosetta spacecraft, after a ten-year flight, enters the orbit of comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko.


    I will try to report as quickly as possible about how this operation takes place 400 million kilometers from Earth.

    Today, the distance between the probe and the comet’s core will be reduced to 100 km, the device will correct the trajectory and start its rotation around the four-kilometer “dirty snow”. Formally, this will not enter orbit, since the comet’s gravity is not enough to hold Rosetta, but its trajectory provides for this condition. The probe will fly in front of the comet so as not to fall into its tail, where dust can cause damage to the instruments. The device will begin a slow rapprochement with the core, rotating by the so-called "Triangular arcs." Each turn in such an "orbit" will also be carried out by turning on the engines, but today there will be a final correction on the path of convergence with the comet.

    Turning on the engines will take 6 minutes 26 seconds and will begin at 13:00 Moscow time.

    The distance to the probe causes a data transfer delay of 22 minutes. Due to transmission difficulties, we will not be able to watch the proximity video, but we will get pictures from the navigation camera as soon as possible.

    In the meantime, ESA experts have prepared a demo video that allows you to imagine what Rosetta's flight around the comet will look like.

    This core model is already fresh, built on the basis of images taken in July.

    Live streaming will take place on the ESA website . Although, I fear, at a key moment, the site will not withstand the influx of viewers.

    I am now at the COSPAR Scientific Assembly at Moscow State University, where about 2 thousand astronomers, planetologists and astrophysicists from around the world have gathered. Direct inclusion will also be organized here, so we will be able to receive information practically first hand. Moreover, the discoverer of the comet Klim Churyumov is also present here. I can’t imagine what feelings he is experiencing at this moment. Did he think of anything like this 45 years ago when he examined the comet in the pictures taken by Svetlana Gerasimenko?

    Rosetta has two sets of cameras: this is the navigation Navcam, the animation with which opens this material. And the OSIRIS scientific camera, it has a more powerful lens (800 mm), which is about three times the power of Navcam.

    Here is a snapshot of the OSIRIS comet nucleus from a distance of 1 thousand km.


    If today they publish a picture from this camera, then we will see the comet in the highest resolution in the history of research.

    At the moment, the speed of the comet and Rosetta is approximately 15.2 km / s (55 thousand km / h), however, relative to each other, their speed does not exceed 1 m / s. This is significantly different from any other research probe encountered with comets. Earlier, the apparatuses approached comets on opposite trajectories, from which their speeds were summed up and reached tens of kilometers per second. Those. no close rapprochement was out of the question - dust from the tail of the comet quickly put the apparatus or devices out of action.

    This is told, in art form, by the cartoon from ESA:


    After 4 months, an equally important event will take place - landing on a comet Philae descent vehicle, but the success of this unprecedented operation, largely depends on today.

    Keep for updates.
    You can read more about Rosetta here:

    UPD: We
    showed images from OSIRIS, which are the most detailed image of the comet's surface, but so far only a screen:

    Yes, we are in orbit!

    a photo

    photo (1)

    We look forward to new pictures with Rosetta.

    Oh yeah!


    Yes, these guys showed some cosmic magic:

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