Rosetta has captured a stunning image of Comet 67P when it was perfectly placed between the spacecraft and the sun. Rosetta was positioned 329 kilometers from the center of the comet when it clicked the beautiful image on March 27.
“Thanks to the combination of a long, four-second exposure, no attenuation filter and a low-gain setting on the analogue signal processor of NAVCAM (a setting that is used to image bright targets), the image reveals the bright environment of the comet”, said the ESA.
Currently, Rosetta is moving back closer to Comet 67P, and is less than 600 kilometers away and will be even closer in near future. On April 9, the spacecraft will move past at an altitude of just 30 kilometers. Scientists said that Rosetta cannot stay around Comet 67P forever.
Reduced solar power and its positioning near the sun will make communications difficult. The comet has already completed its closest approach to the sun. With every passing day, the sunlight required to power Rosetta will get dimmer.
The position of the comet and the sun is not even proving beneficial. On October 1, the comet (Rosetta) will slip behind the sun. Therefore, it is considered that Rosetta will also meet the same fate as that of Philae. As per plans, Rosetta will make an impact on the surface of the comet sometime in September. Researchers are not expecting the Rosetta probe to survive the impact.
Before the impact, the Rosetta team expects to gather as much information as possible. Scientists said that Rosetta’s antenna needs to be pinpointed at earth for communications to be established. Rosetta arrived at the comet back in August 2014 and it delivered the Philae robotic probe on its surface.
A report published in the NewsLedge said, “Rosetta can’t stay powered around Comet 67P forever. A combination of reduced solar power and its positioning near the Sun will make communications difficult. Comet 67P already completed its closest approach to the Sun. And as every day passes, the precious sunlight needed to power Rosetta becomes dimmer. Ultimately, that means there won’t be enough power to operate every scientific instrument at the same time.”
The Rosetta team doesn’t expect the spacecraft to survive impact. And even if it does, communication will be nearly impossible. Rosetta’s antenna needs to be pointed at Earth for communications to be established. If it’s off by even half a degree, ground stations on Earth won’t be able to communicate with it.
“Rosetta is now making its way back closer to Comet 67P, and as of right now, it is less than 600 kilometers away, although it plans to get even closer. The spacecraft is set to move past the icy object on April 9 at an altitude of just 30 kilometers – not as much as the 12 kilometers seen in the new image, but still impressive. Rosetta arrived at Comet 67P back in August 2014, and it delivered the Philae robot onto its surface just a few months later. Its closest approach to the sun occurred in August of last year while inside the orbit or Mars,” according to a news report published by HNGN.
“The upcoming months of Rosetta operations will see a renewed focus on close proximity to the comet as its activity continues to drop, as well as investigations of previously uncharted territories at larger distances around the comet, including the tail region.”
In a report published by the BBC, The European Space Agency (Esa) probe was a few hundred km “downstream” of all the vapour and dust being vented from the icy dirt-ball. Even though the duck-shaped object is heading out of the inner Solar System, it remains classically active. Rosetta will continue to study the comet until controllers direct it to make a “landing” in September.
Mission officials will endeavour to make this touchdown a gentle one, to ensure data is returned for as long as possible. But it will bring the whole venture to an end. Rosetta will likely be damaged by the impact and drop all contact with Earth. In the meantime, scientists hope to gather as much information as they can about the 4km-wide wanderer. Current observations are telling them about the workings of the tail of material that is carried away from 67P on the solar wind.