Rosetta hits 'milestone' in comet's run past Sun

August 13, 2015
Picture captured by the European space probe Rosetta's Navcam camera on August 13, 2015 shows Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko ju
Picture captured by the European space probe Rosetta's Navcam camera on August 13, 2015 shows Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko just one hour before it reached perihelion, the closest point to the Sun along its 6.5-year orbit

The European space probe Rosetta captured a range of scientific data Thursday as it trailed an ancient comet past the Sun which could help scientists better understand the origins of life on Earth.

During its run before the Sun the probe collected particles and gas put off by the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it delivered a solar heat-driven fireworks show of gas jets and shed about a tonne of dust per second.

The samples as well as images Rosetta took of the comet as it came within 186 million kilometres (116 million miles) of the Sun at about 0200 GMT will be analysed in the coming weeks and months, the European Space Agency said.

"It's really a fantastic milestone that has been achieved by Rosetta today," Nicola Altobelli, acting Rosetta Project scientist, said during a online presentation marking the occasion.

"Beyond the obvious scientific achievement, it was also technically a masterpiece in space engineering," he added.

However, project scientists said the washing machine-sized lander Philae—sent to 67P's surface last November—remains incommunicado, with some of its equipment not working properly any longer.

Experts, however, sounded a hopeful note that the lander could wake up again and transmit scientific data as well as images from the surface of the comet to Rosetta.

Pictures taken from Rosetta's navigation camera showed that 67P was "very active" as its surface was buffeted by solar wind and heat, said Sylvian Lodiot, the engineer in charge of the spacecraft at ESA's European Space Operations Centre in Germany.

The progress of the Chury comet and Philae as they approach the closest point to the Sun
The progress of the Chury comet and Philae as they approach the closest point to the Sun
"There are jets of gas and dust just about everywhere," he told AFP.

Rosetta, which continues to shadow the comet on its 6.5 year orbit around the Sun, "is working perfectly," he added.

'Quite worrying'

During the 67P's solar swingby, Rosetta retreated to a safe distance of 330 kilometres (200 miles) to protect its star tracker navigation system from the debris.

The comet is made up of minerals, ice and—most critically for scientists—organic molecules that may have been similar to the precursors that kick-started life in Earth's early oceans.

"In looking at this comet—a step in that process of understanding —we are trying to understand why our system turned out the way it did, why Earth had stable water, and the ingredients that led to what we are today, that is a planet of living beings," astrophysicist Jean-Pierre Bibring of the Institute of Space Astrophysics told radio France Inter on Thursday.

Scientists hope the heat of perihelion—when the comet comes closest to the Sun in its orbit—will have caused the lifeless voyager to shed a significant layer of its icy crust.

Over the past few weeks, European space probe Rosetta has been witnessing growing activity from Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

If so, it will disgorge some of these pristine particles left from the solar system's birth about 4.6 billion years ago.

Yet it is not clear if the lander Philae will help unravel the mystery.

"We have not heard from Philae in more than a month and that is quite worrying," Barbara Cozzoni, a lander engineer, said during the online presentation.

She noted one of the reasons Philae may have been out of contact so long is that its transmission equipment has been steadily degrading.

Handout file photo released by the European Space Agency shows a close up detail on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, taken by Ro
Handout file photo released by the European Space Agency shows a close up detail on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, taken by Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera

One transmitter is out of commission and two receivers are not working properly.

"We are here we are working, we are trying to find a work-around to the situation. We are working hard to get some science from Philae," Cozzoni added.

The lander, which runs on solar power, has the energy it needs to operate through October, but after that days will start getting shorter and the robot lab could run short of power.

Explore further: Comet skirts past Sun with Rosetta in tow (Update)

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rossim22
2.3 / 5 (10) Aug 13, 2015
"Scientists hope the heat of perihelion—when the comet comes closest to the Sun in its orbit—will have caused the lifeless voyager to shed a significant layer of its icy crust."

When the term "icy crust" is used, it implies that the crust of the comet is icy. That couldn't be much more wrong. The crust is not icy; it is very dehydrated, dark, and rock hard. I believe you're intending to mention the idea that the removal of the dusty surface would reveal an icy body. And for the sake of the theory, I sure hope this happens.

But what if it doesn't? What if post-perihelion 67P is just as dry, dark, and rock hard as when the observations began? Will the dirty snowball model finally be discarded? If not, then what scientific value would any prediction concerning this model have?

I want some predictions so the snowball theory can be directly falsified, given that this is the ONLY time a comet's been studied in such detail and no theory should be mistaken as concrete.
carlo_piantini
1.6 / 5 (7) Aug 14, 2015
@rossim22: not sure how you're getting 1-star votes for that comment. You're description of 67P's bone-dry, charcoal surface is completely accurate, and if an icy layer beneath the surface isn't discovered during perihelion, then yeah, i'd say that this should be very strong observational evidence that comets are not icy-bodies.

You're request for falsifying predictions is also in no way unreasonable, and you're asking valid questions about how our model of comets should be affected in the event of even *more* unpredicted observations. It genuinely feels sometimes that mainstream astronomy has no desire whatsoever to falsify any of their models, or put legitimately put them to any kind of test.
JustAnotherGuy
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 14, 2015
Seems to be some people put lots of value on comments ranking, rather than in comments arguments. As for the ranking, it is not just about arguments. Intention, attitude, focus, clearness, context, coherency... lots of things to consider...

For the #1 comment, seems to be that a quote containing the 'icy crust' topic was used as excuse to disqualify some researchers's work. Which to me, is a good response from readers to note it and reject it.
I gave 2/5, generous in my opinion.
Had the quoted statement included the word 'water', more coherent the comment could be. Forced argumentation.
As for "mainstream and its undoubted models", I think sending proves and collecting data is the best way to put them to test, as they do.
mreda14
not rated yet Aug 14, 2015
I mean in the neighborhood of perihelion there is so much thick dust everywhere on the surface of this comet that block the solar energy from Philae. Assuming that the landing of Philae was normal. ESA should have considered this. What I am saying is that even if the landing of Philae was normal. Still there is this dust problem.
TechnoCreed
5 / 5 (8) Aug 14, 2015
@carlo_piantini
You're description of 67P's bone-dry, charcoal surface is completely accurate, and if an icy layer beneath the surface isn't discovered during perihelion, then yeah, i'd say that this should be very strong observational evidence that comets are not icy-bodies.
Except that, at this moment, 67P is spewing water at the rate of 300 liter/sec; that is 10 Olympic size pools a day. DO you know why the surface is dry? Do you know what triple point is? Do you know what is happening when a surface is losing its thermal energy? Look closely at this video and you will understand. https://www.youtu...yJa8NSk0
JustAnotherGuy
4 / 5 (4) Aug 15, 2015
To be consistent with the description of ranking criteria I did... I have to rate TechnoCreed's comment 5/5. Brief, precise and informative.

This must be the link. http://www.esa.in..._the_Sun
PO have also posted it. This one includes a couple of interesting images. Click the "continue" button.
jonesdave
4 / 5 (8) Aug 16, 2015
@carlo_piantini
You're description of 67P's bone-dry, charcoal surface is completely accurate, and if an icy layer beneath the surface isn't discovered during perihelion, then yeah, i'd say that this should be very strong observational evidence that comets are not icy-bodies.
Except that, at this moment, 67P is spewing water at the rate of 300 liter/sec; that is 10 Olympic size pools a day. DO you know why the surface is dry? Do you know what triple point is? Do you know what is happening when a surface is losing its thermal energy? Look closely at this video and you will understand. https://www.youtu...yJa8NSk0


Not to mention that H2O was directly observed from beneath the surface of Tempel 1, a mere 10 years ago. However, Thornhill, genius that he is, convinced all these saps of something completely different. And, being saps, they never bothered to check. Infrared spectroscopy is not his or their strong point.
jonesdave
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 16, 2015

I want some predictions so the snowball theory can be directly falsified, given that this is the ONLY time a comet's been studied in such detail and no theory should be mistaken as concrete.


Well, yours have been going really well, haven't they? Electric glows? Discharges? Temperature anomalies?
Nothing electrical going on here. Except for the hard of thinking.
Google "diamagnetic cavity". Saw it at Halley, seen it here. How does that happen? Sun is electric, n'est-ce pas? Where is this bleeding current? Current = magnetic field. Well, within 4000 km of Halley, 30 sodding years ago, you've got nothing.
Idiots. Seriously.
How long before you bring up Anariba and his garbage?
Own up, you've lost. It was b*llocks to start with, and it's b*llocks now.
An evidence free zone. Just for the scientifically illiterate.
jonesdave
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 16, 2015

I want some predictions so the snowball theory can be directly falsified, given that this is the ONLY time a comet's been studied in such detail and no theory should be mistaken as concrete.


Tempel effing 1. Impact. H2O excavated. Indisputably observed. What is your problem? Or do you not understand IR spectroscopy? Wouldn't be surprised, as Thornhill seems to have a problem with IR and X-ray, and, well, just science in general.
Perhaps you'd like to sum up the evidence in favour of the non-existent rocky, electric comet garbage? Shouldn't take long.

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