The Rosetta spacecraft dropped the refrigerator-sized Philae lander onto comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which is made up of plunging cliffs and rocky terrain.
The European Space Agency (ESA) completed one of the biggest space feats in years on Wednesday when it landed a robot on a comet speeding between Jupiter and Mars at nearly 40,000 mph.
Many scientists even think comets were a crucial part of Earth’s formation because they crashed into our planet during its formative years, spewing organic molecules that were essential to life, something that the Rosetta team hopes to uncover on this mission.
To promote the Rosetta mission ESA made a fantastical, highly produced short film starring Aidan Gillen, the actor who plays Littlefinger in Game of Thrones. The video, called “Ambition,” features a post-apocalyptic planet in which humans have magical powers to create solar systems. ESA said the film is “a larger tribute to how contemporary space exploration is crucial to searching for clues to our own origins.”
Scientists have jokingly dubbed Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko a “rubber duck” in space due to its irregular shape. Others say it would be more accurately described as a “black swan” due to the deep black color caused by its non-reflective surface. Explanations for the comet’s unique shape vary. Some experts believe it is a true “contact binary,” meaning it is made of two objects that melded together after impact. Alternatively, it could have been molded into its irregular form through impact with other objects.
According to researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland, the cloud of gas surrounding comet 67P smells like rotten eggs, horse urine, methanol and formaldehyde — odors not uncommon for comets like this. As the comet nears the sun, it will release more gases and smell even worse, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Comet Infrared and Visible Analyser (CIVA) on Philae is comprised of seven cameras that are capable of taking 360 degree photos of the comet’s landscape once the spacecraft lands. CIVA can also take selfies from its place on the Rosetta spacecraft. This image shows the side of the Rosetta spacecraft with the comet in the background.
The orbiter will still undergo nearly a dozen experiments and observations that will allow scientists to map the nucleus and gain a better understanding into the processes that occur near, on and inside a comet as it is warmed by the Sun.
Comets undergo major changes when they move into areas with more intense sunlight, within the inner solar system. When this occurs, the different types of ice in the inner sections of the comet can vaporize and fall away, while gas wraps around the center of the comet, creating a fragile atmosphere known as a coma. Read more…