travelling through space at 17km a
second (much of that time spent in
a nailbiting, battery-saving forced
dropped a fridge-
, onto a sunny spot on
the comet’s icy surface.
weighs 100kg on Earth,
the gravity on the tiny comet is so weak
that now, weighing only 1 gram, it
actually bounced off the surface due to
failure of its anchoring harpoons. The
lander then ricocheted 1km high and took
2 hours to fall back before bouncing
slightly, finally lodging in some shadowy
proceeded to send
back 64 hours of priceless scientific data
including stunning images of the icy and
unexpectedly hard surface before its
batteries ran out.
This continuing mission will carry on till
at least August 2015 when the comet
rounds the Sun and will heat up and
develop huge and possibly violent jets
of water vapour and gas. This material is
what gives many comets the lovely long
tail following them for thousands of km
though space, and often making them
visible to us on Earth. All will be keenly
observed and photographed by
One of the experiments
out was made possible by high tech
quartz oscillators supplied by Auckland
company Rakon; so there is actually a
piece of NZ scientific prowess orbiting
Simulated photo of
Philae Lander on
surface of comet.
Rosetta’s cameras captured a half hour of ‘time-stamped’ photos of the lander’s location mid-air as it approached the
“J” landing site. Landing where planned, evidenced by the impressions of the landers feet seen in the “touchdown point”
photo, it then bounced to another location. The final shot shows it passing over a shadowy area after the first bounce.
The European Space Agency (ESA) released the
first image (seen right) from orbiter
plunky-bouncy lander Philae. The photo shows
a sharp closeup of the actual ground of the
comet with one of
three feet visible in the
foreground. The lander performed 64 data-packed
hours of experiments before being hibernated
when the batteries ran low.
We highly recommend a visit to Stargazers B&B
and Astronomy Tours for a ‘tour of the skies’.
Alastair has an impressive observatory and
various telescopes, including the largest one on
half billion kilometers from Earth, a spacecraft the size
of a car travelled 6 billion km hoping to rendevous with
an icy rock
across hurtling through space at 17km per
second. And rendevous it did.
has been in space for ten years, but on Nov. 12,
2014 it did something no other spacecraft had ever
attempted — it matched speed, orbited and landed a
robotic probe on a comet!
HISTORIC COMET LANDING!
The weeks leading up to Christmas will see many amazing
new images sent back from the
currently orbiting the 4x2km Comet 67P. This historic
mission was discussed in our last issue, and since then it
successfully completed another aspect of one of the most
audacious feats of science and technology –
After a ten year journey to catch up with the comet
The Rosetta Mission lander,
, has safely landed on a comet! One of
feet appears at the
bottom left of this spectacular image of the surface of C67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. A surface
panorama suggests that the lander has come to rest tilted, near a shadowing ledge, with its solar
panels getting less light than needed for continuous operation.
Comet 67P’s possible landing spots,
with J preferrred. Colors show the two
ends of the bone-shaped comet.
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Photo by Peter Drury