Rosetta the Comet Chaser Arrives

Today's been a pretty epic day. After a decade, ESA's Rosetta, the comet chaser, has caught up with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Artists impression of Rosetta approaching the comet.
Artist impression of ESA's Rosetta approaching comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

This has taken place somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter; 405 million KM from earth (equivalent to 110,106 circumferences of the earth). It takes 22 minutes to send and receive signals from Rosetta because of the distance. How you orchestrate a rendezvous with that constraint, at that distance, I have no idea.

For the last few months, I've been enjoying the blurry images of 67P in anticipation of the images seen today.

The comet rotating.
A series of images of 67P taken on 14th July. This animated gif is worth breaking my image weight rules!

Picture of the comet on 3rd August 2014.
A higher quality view of 67P taken on Sunday (3/08/14).

Towards the end of the working day, these incredible images were released.

First close up of the comet 67P.
Second close up of 67P.

Some stats from BBC and ESA:

  • Been in space for nearly 10.5 years.
  • Woken from deep space hibernation after 31 months in hibernation.
  • Looped around the sun five times.
  • Travelled a total of 6.4 billion KM.

Summed up nicely…

That is amazing. Mental to think that fucker has been hurtling through space for a very long time.
Mike.

And don't forget the challenge of getting a fridge sized lander to its surface. So exciting. Look at the missions launching in the near future.

14/08/14 Update

Rosetta is currently scanning for a landing zone.

20/08/14 Update

Found on Twitter, this image compares the size of 67P against Los Angeles.

Images courtesy of ESA.