March 28, 2014
First Images Of Deep Space Comet Transmitted From ESA’s Rosetta
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Rosetta woke up from a deep hibernation in January, and since then ESA engineers have been preparing it for its rendezvous with the comet. The spacecraft took its “first light” images last week using its Optical, Spectroscopic and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) wide-angle camera.
OSIRIS is one of 11 science instruments on Rosetta that will help scientists uncover details about the comet’s surface, atmosphere and its plasma environment. The spacecraft has been traveling through space for 10 years and should finally arrive at the comet in August.
Rosetta is currently over 3 million miles away from the comet, making it a tough object to catch on camera. ESA said that it took a series of 60-300 second exposures with the wide-angle and narrow-angle camera to get a picture of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. After it snapped the photos, the data traveled 37 minutes through space to reach Earth. Three years ago, when Rosetta was 100 million miles from the target, it took a 13-hour exposure to get the comet to show up in the picture.
“Finally seeing our target after a 10 year journey through space is an incredible feeling,” OSIRIS Principal Investigator Holger Sierks from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, said in a statement. “These first images taken from such a huge distance show us that OSIRIS is ready for the upcoming adventure.”
The latest tests are part of a six-week period of activities dedicated to prepare Rosetta’s science instruments for the mission. OSIRIS and Rosetta’s navigation cameras will regularly acquire images over the coming weeks to help refine Rosetta’s trajectory so ESA can keep it on a steady course towards the comet.
ESA said that Rosetta is currently on a trajectory that would take it past the comet at a distance of about 31,000 miles. Engineers will perform a series of critical maneuvers beginning in May that will gradually reduce Rosetta’s velocity relative to the comet to help get it on the right trajectory.
“This is a great start to our instrument commissioning period and we are looking forward to having all 11 instruments plus lander Philae back online and ready for arriving at the comet in just a few month’s time,” Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist, said in a statement.
Image Below: Rosetta’s first sighting of its target in 2014 – narrow angle view. Credit: ESA © 2014 MPS for OSIRIS-Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA