What’s The Deal With That Comet Landing?
What is this comet?
The comet has the really catchy name of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It orbits the sun once every 6 1/2 years.
And what’s the big deal about landing on it?
Basically, comets move very fast and it’s tricky to know where one is going to be and to get a landing craft on it without it being destroyed. Comets are significantly smaller than the sun, planets and moons, and so it gets pulled in different directions depending on which body it’s traveling by. Whenever 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is close to Jupiter, its orbit around the sun is altered.
So we landed on it?
Yup. Well, not we. The European Space Agency did. But we helped. The Rosetta spacecraft launched in 2004 and has been traveling toward the comet all this time. It wasn’t just going in a straight line, either. Rosetta was put into hibernation for over two years before this January, when it was awoken to approach the comet’s orbit.
The actual landing piece is a 200-lb robotic probe called Philae. It touched down at about 8:00 am PST on November 12.
What are we going to learn from this?
Quite a bit! Scientists have never been this close to a comet for so long. This thing has been all over the place and may have picked up some goodies from elsewhere in the solar system along the way.
We’ve only got a few months to collect all the data, though. In March, the comet is going to become too hot for Philae to function and it’ll die.
Those first bits of information might be slow to come today. The scientists are now all busy getting wasted.
First Image Taken From Philae
An Image Of Philae Taken By Rosetta