The scientists behind the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission to a comet today released an amazing series of pictures showing the space mountain flashing with an outburst of dust and gas.
They suspect that the Feb. 19 outburst, captured by Rosetta’s instruments from a distance of about 20 miles, may have been triggered by a landslide.
“Over the last year, Rosetta has show that although activity can be prolonged, when it comes to outbursts, the timing is highly unpredictable, so catching an event like this was pure luck,” Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist, said in a news release. “By happy coincidence, we were pointing the majority of instruments at the comet at this time, and having these simultaneous measurements provides us with the most complete set of data on an outburst ever collected.”
The readings were sent back soon after the eruption, but it took months to reconstruct the chain of events behind it. Now a research paper about the phenomenon has been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.