comet

Via: The Guardian
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History was made Wednesday when the European Space Agency successfully landed a spacecraft on a comet for the first time ever.

"We are the first to do this - and that [achievement] will stay forever." said Jean Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA.



The comet, 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, orbits, the sun every 6.45 years. It is 2.1 miles wide by 2.4 miles long.

Rosetta first launched in 2004 to research the comet, and it didn't arrived at its destination until this past August. On Wednesday morning, Philae first separated from the probe to attempt a landing.

Researchers are hoping to learn more about the origins of the solar system and whether or not comets could have brought water and life to Earth. Watch an ESA animated explanation of Rosetta's journey to the comet and it's surface mission below.

comet lovejoy has a complex tail
Via: NASA
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Via NASA:

What causes the structure in Comet Lovejoy's tail? Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy), which is currently at naked-eye brightness and near its brightest, has been showing an exquisitely detailed ion tail. As the name implies, the ion tail is made of ionized gas -- gas energized by ultraviolet light from the Sun and pushed outward by the solar wind. The solar wind is quite structured and sculpted by the Sun's complex and ever changing magnetic field. The effect of the variable solar wind combined with different gas jets venting from the comet's nucleus accounts for the tail's complex structure. Following the wind, structure in Comet Lovejoy's tail can be seen to move outward from the Sun even alter its wavy appearance over time. The blue color of the ion tail is dominated by recombining carbon monoxide molecules, while the green color of the coma surrounding the head of the comet is created mostly by a slight amount of recombiningdiatomic carbon molecules.
Via: Slate
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Yesterday, when the Rosetta spacecraft was a mere 234 kilometers (145 miles) from the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (or just ChuGer) it took this amazing image with its navigational camera...

Mind you, the main OSIRIS camera has more resolution than the NAVCAM, so we'll be getting better pictures soon. And of course, Rosetta is still on the approach!


UPDATE: A second close up photograph: