Animated GIF shows ‘snow’ on Rosetta’s comet

It’s been 19 months since the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko ended, but the probe’s pictures stirred up a fresh flurry of excitement this week.

Or are those snow flurries?

The excitement is over 33 pictures that were snapped back on June 1, 2016, and posted to Rosetta’s online archive last month. The sequence, captured from a distance of several miles over the course of about 25 minutes, shows the comet’s Cliffs of Hathor with boulders strewn about.

One by one, the pictures are interesting enough. But when a Twitter user with the handle Landru79 (a.k.a. Jacint Roger Perez) put them together in a one-second animated GIF, the scene really came to life.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Mission to a comet ends with bittersweet bang

Rosetta cartoon
The Rosetta probe inspired a series of kid-friendly cartoons. (Credit: ESA)

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe today descended to a mission-ending impact on the comet that it followed for more than two years.

The car-sized probe continued to transmit data as it dove toward the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, 446 million miles from Earth. When the data stream flatlined, scientists and engineers at ESA’s mission control in Darmstadt, Germany, knew it was all over.

The end was greeted at 1:19 p.m. CEST (4:19 a.m. PT) with a prolonged “Ohhh,” followed by applause and hugs.

“This is it,” said Rosetta mission manager Patrick Martin. “I can announce the full success of this historic descent of Rosetta toward 67P, and I declare hereby the mission operations ended for Rosetta. … Farewell, Rosetta. You’ve done the job.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Long-lost lander located in a comet’s crack

Image: Philae lander
A close-up shows the 3-foot-wide Philae lander from a distance of 1.7 miles. (Credit: ESA / Rosetta / MPS for OSIRIS Team / UPD / LAM / IAA / SSO / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA)

After almost two years’ of searching, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has shown scientists what happened to the Philae lander when itbounced onto the surface of a comet – and why it went out of contact.

The answer to the mystery comes less than a month before the $1.4 billion Rosetta mission’s end.

Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera spotted the boxy, 3-foot-wide Philae lander stuck in a dark crack on Comet 67/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, more than 420 million miles from Earth.

The comet has been the object of Rosetta’s study since August 2014. Philae was pushed out from the main spacecraft and descended to the surface that November. The lander was supposed to beam up a stream of data about the comet’s composition. It did provide three days’ worth of data, but then the solar-powered probe fell silent.

Rosetta’s scientists determined that the lander had bounced on the surface, and spent months analyzing radio data and imagery from the main spacecraft in an attempt to figure out where it ended up. They assumed that Philae had fallen someplace dark where it couldn’t recharge its batteries.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Pow! Rosetta probe spots comet eruption

Image: Rosetta image of comet eruption
The OSIRIS wide-angle camera on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe captured this view of an outburst from the Atum region on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Feb. 19. (Credit: ESA / Rosetta / MPS for OSIRIS Team, MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / SSO / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA)

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.

Get the full story on GeekWire.