LOOK: Rosetta Probe Captures Its Last Images of Comet 67P
The comet-chasing Rosetta spacecraft captured images of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko before its end-of-mission crash landing on the comet's surface on Sept. 30.
The European Space Agency (ESA) released these last images of the comet taken using the spacecraft's OSIRIS wide-angle camera shortly before impact at an estimated altitude of 20 meters above the surface, ESA officials said in a statement.
According to ESA, the image scale is about 5 mm/pixel (0.2 inches/pixel, measuring about 2.4 meters (7.6 feet) across. The view of the image is a bit blurry, but according to Holger Sierks, principal investigator for Rosetta's OSIRIS camera, the team will be sharpening the image.
Rosetta, the first man-made orbiter to circumnavigate a comet's nucleus, has been in mission for 12 years. Since the spacecraft is not designed to survive a landing, ESA officials decided to crash the probe on the comet so it could capture data up-close on the icy surface.
The spacecraft crash-landed on a region on the comet's smaller lobe called Ma'at. The site was chosen because of its active pits -- which release jets of gas and dust from the comet -- measuring about 100 meters (330 feet) wide. According to mission managers, they hoped the Rosetta could capture snapshots of the insides of the Deir el-Medina pits, which contain "goose bumps" that scientists want to study as these lumps could represent the comet's internal building blocks, Space.com reports.
The Rosetta spacecraft, together with the Philae lander, reached the surface of Comet 67P in 2014. Unfortunately, the Philae's landing was not as smooth as expected, and the Rosetta team lost communications with the lander.
The probe had been orbiting the comet for the last two years, providing scientists valuable information about the comet's composition. One of its tasks was to determine the role of comets in the formation of the Earth billions of years ago.
ESA scientists said that Rosetta's mission and the data it will leave would not be taken for granted. While it could take years before scientists could properly analyze all the data from the probe, scientists said they could still give light to new and interesting discoveries even after Rosetta is gone.
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