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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.
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.