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LOOK: ESA Releases Last Images of Comet 67P From Rosetta

Oct 25, 2016 04:43 AM EDT
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ESA looks forward to Rosetta comet reaching orbit position closest to sun

The European Space Agency (ESA) releases the last batch of comet images taken by Rosetta during the final month of its two-year mission.

The images of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which were released to ESA's Archive Image Browser were taken by the spacecraft's NAVCAM from September 2 to 30 when Rosetta was on elliptical orbits that sometimes brought it to within 2 kilometers of the comet's surface, ESA officials said.

A close-up image taken during the spacecraft's descent on a controlled impact on the comet's surface on Sept. 30 shows icing-like landscape on the comet. The image was captured when Rosetta was only 18.1 km from the center of the comet's nucleus during its dramatic crash-landing.

Apart from the NAVCAM images, there could be more images from the spacecraft's OSIRIS camera. The other science instruments are expected to return their last data from between 20 meters to 5 meters above the comet's surface, Universe Today reports.

Other instruments include the ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis), which collected data on the density of gas around the comet and its composition, and the GIADA (Grain Impact Analyzer and Dust Accumulator), which measured the density of dust.

The spacecraft also has a suite of instruments called the RPC (Rosetta Plasma Consortium), which captured the interaction between the solar wind and the surface of the comet. There is also Alice, an Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer like the one on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which captured high-resolution ultraviolet spectra of the comet's surface, and the RSI (Radio Science Investigation), which took accurate measurements of the comet's gravity field during descent.

ESA also recently released a few images captured by Rosetta's OSIRIS wide-angle camera shortly before impact.

Rosetta had started orbiting Comet 67P in 2014 and gathered information about the comet despite the ill-fated landing of its Philae lander on the comet's surface. The mission ended on Sept. 30 when the spacecraft was deliberately crashed on the comet's smaller lobe called Ma'at to capture data up-close on the icy surface.

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