Greetings from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko! Wish you were here…
It may be a mouthful to say, but Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko — partly named after its co-discoverers — made history today as the first comet to encounter and undergo synchronous orbit with a human-made spacecraft, which will eventually land on its surface, and follow it over the next several years as it nears the Sun. Known as Rosetta, this international mission is a cornerstone of the European Space Agency’s Science Program. Today, it made its first rendezvous and orbit with its icy comet target.
Rosetta and comet “Chury” (for short) are locked in orbit at about 405 million km from Earth. When Rosetta lands on Chury, it will conduct scientific measurements of chemistry and physical properties on a comet nucleus, feats never before possible with the fly-by missions of the past. Solar system scientists hope that the information gained by Rosetta will unlock clues to the origin of the solar system, some of which lie hidden inside some of the most primitive, and hard to reach bodies of the solar system — the comets.
The comet will eventually pass far beyond the orbit of Jupiter, accompanied by Rosetta.
Today’s feat was accompanied by new images (“Postcards”) of the comet’s surface, such as the one below.