The comet that the European probe Rosetta will visit in August has awakened.


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The comet that the European probe Rosetta will visit in August has awakened.

Already 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is approximately 50 percent brighter than in the last images from October 2013. While the comet has moved another 50 million kilometers closer to Earth in this time (and 80 million kilometers closer to the Sun), the increase in brightness cannot be explained by the smaller distance alone. “The new image suggests that 67P is beginning to emit gas and dust at a relatively large distance from the Sun”, says Colin Snodgrass from the MPS. This confirms a study presented by Snodgrass and his colleagues last year in which they had compared the comet’s brightness as recorded during its previous orbits around the Sun. The calculations showed that already in March 2014 its activity would be measurable from Earth.

Update: A preprint paper published today on the astro-ph website predicts that Rosetta will see an unusual topographical feature on the comet’s surface when it arrives in August:

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The Secular Light Curve (SLC) of this comet exhibits a photometric anomaly in magnitude that is present in 1982, 1996, 2002 and 2009. Thus it must be real. We interpret this anomaly as a topographic feature on the surface of the nucleus that may be a field of debris, a region made only of dust or an area of solid stones but in any case it is depleted in volatiles. We predict that images taken by spacecraft Rosseta will show a region morphologically different to the rest of the nucleus, at the pole pointing to the Sun near perihelion.

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4 comments

  • Don

    Maybe this comet will turn into a show here on Earth, unlike the promised two that were duds in 2013?

    We predict that images taken by spacecraft Rosseta will show a region morphologically different to the rest of the nucleus, at the pole pointing to the Sun near perihelion.

    Paging Richard C. Hoagland, paging Richard C. Hoagland ………

  • The comet that Rosetta is going to is not going to put on a show here on Earth, not unless you count the images that Rosetta beams down to us. This is one of those comets that orbits the sun in a relatively circular orbit (for a comet). It warms up and gets a tail as it moves in, but that tail is never that spectacular and is not visible to the naked eye.

  • wade

    You are correct Robert Zimmerman. And I can state my point. The comets that Don is referring to Did have an effect on planet Earth. As they approached our sun, they left dust particles in a trail ,that block radiation from our star and resulted in reduced temperatures and chaotic weather effects

  • Pzatchok

    I don’t think they left enough dust to make any kind of change in our weather.

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