Get a load of those streaks! Rosetta’s comet is picking up in activity as it moves ever closer to the Sun, sending out a steady stream of gas and dust captured in this image released today (Nov. 26). It’s also possible that there might be an “atmosphere” developing around the comet, although the images aren’t clear on if that’s an artifact of Rosetta itself.
As the European Space Agency scurries to find the final resting place of the Philae lander, Rosetta continues normal operations above the comet and will keep tracking it through 2015. Rosetta is the first orbiter to stick around near a comet, which will allow scientists an unprecedented chance to see a comet change from up close as the Sun’s heat and particles affect it. Could there be an atmosphere starting up?
“At the bottom of the mosaic, the non-illuminated part of the comet stands out as a silhouette against the broader diffuse emission coming from the comet’s coma,” ESA stated. “There are hints of a diffuse ‘atmosphere’ close to the surface of the comet seen along the illuminated edges, but this could be due to scattering in the NAVCAM optics. The large number of small white blobs in the image are likely specks of dust or other small objects in the vicinity of the comet.”
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Here’s the same image below, but slightly oversatured to bring out those streaks. It’ll be fun to see the changes at 67P over the next few months, and ESA is still holding out hope that Philae will wake up in a few months once enough sunlight reaches its shady spot. If that happens, scientists can then get an extreme close-up of 67P’s activity as well.
Source: European Space Agency