SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— A comet has never been followed from this close before, but a comet-chasing space probe has reached its destination after a more than 10-year journey.
The European Space Agency’s space probe Rosetta has completed a rendezvous with a comet called 67P and is orbiting at a distance of only 60 miles.
Scientists are hoping to discover how the comet will change over the next few months as it moves closer to the sun. Solar radiation will be hitting and coming off from the comet according to Elizabeth Howell, senior writer for Universe Today.
Howell said comets are made from ice, rock and dust and are frozen leftovers from the formation of the solar system.
67P appears to be a little dustier than most. “We sort of think of these comets as being an icy snowball,” Howell said. “In this case there might be a little less ice than expected.”
The impressive photos being sent back so far show extreme craggy areas as well as smooth sections.
Howell said it appears that there might be a couple of different bodies joined together on the “little “comet, meaning it could be made up of different compositions.
Rosetta’s Mission will continue for the next year. In that time ices and gas are expected to come off 67P, forming the tail we commonly associate with comets.