Rise And Shine! Rosetta’s Comet Emerges From Behind Sun, Much Brighter Than Before

by Elizabeth Howell on March 10, 2014

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Artist's impression (not to scale) of the Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA–C. Carreau/ATG medialab.

Artist’s impression (not to scale) of the Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA–C. Carreau/ATG medialab.

After four months behind the sun from Earth’s perspective, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is back in view — and brighter than ever! New pictures of the comet reveal it is 50 percent brighter than the last images available from October 2013. You can see the result below the jump.

“The new image suggests that 67P is beginning to emit gas and dust at a relatively large distance from the Sun,” stated Colin Snodgrass, a post-doctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany. Snodgrass added that this confirms previous work he and his colleagues did showing that in March 2014, the comet’s activity could be seen from Earth.

Pictures were taken with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope from 740 million kilometers (460 million miles) away. As you can see in the image below, several exposures were taken to obtain the fainter comet. And we know that scientists are eager to take a closer look with Rosetta.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on images obtained Feb. 28th, 2014 with the Very Large Telescope. Left: Several exposures were obtained of the faint comet, and superimposed upon each other, making stars appear as streaks. Right: The comet in an image processed to remove the stars. Credit: MPS/ESO

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on images obtained Feb. 28th, 2014 with the Very Large Telescope. Left: Several exposures were obtained of the faint comet, and superimposed upon each other, making stars appear as streaks. Right: The comet in an image processed to remove the stars. Credit: MPS/ESO

In January, the Rosetta spacecraft woke up after 31 months of hibernation (a little later than expected, but still healthy as ever.) It’s en route to meet up with the comet in August and will stay alongside it at least until 2015′s end. The next major step is to wake up its lander, Philae, which will happen later this month.

Should all go to plan, Philae will make a daring landing on the comet in November to get an up-close view of the activity as the comet flies close to the sun. You can read more details in this past Universe Today story.

Source: Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Aqua4U March 10, 2014 at 11:15 AM

Any word on the cause of the 45 minute signal delay at wake up?

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