[meteorite-list] First Map of Rosetta's Comet
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Sun, 14 Sep 2014 20:06:25 -0700 (PDT)
First Map of Rosetta's Comet
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
September 11, 2014
Scientists have found that the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
-- the target of study for the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission
-- can be divided into several regions, each characterized by different
classes of features. High-resolution images of the comet reveal a unique,
ESA's Rosetta spacecraft arrived at its destination about a month ago
and is currently accompanying the comet as it progresses on its route
toward the inner solar system. Scientists have analyzed images of the
comet's surface taken by OSIRIS, Rosetta's scientific imaging system,
and defined several different regions, each of which has a distinctive
physical appearance. This analysis provides the basis for a detailed scientific
description of 67P's surface. A map showing the comet's various regions
is available at:
"Never before have we seen a cometary surface in such detail," says OSIRIS
Principal Investigator Holger Sierks from the Max Planck Institute for
Solar System Science (MPS) in Germany. In some of the images, one pixel
corresponds to a scale of 30 inches (75 centimeters) on the nucleus. "It
is a historic moment -- we have an unprecedented resolution to map a comet,"
The comet has areas dominated by cliffs, depressions, craters, boulders
and even parallel grooves. While some of these areas appear to be quiet,
others seem to be shaped by the comet's activity, in which grains emitted
from below the surface fall back to the ground in the nearby area.
"This first map is, of course, only the beginning of our work," says Sierks.
"At this point, nobody truly understands how the surface variations we
are currently witnessing came to be."
As both comet 67P and Rosetta travel closer to the sun during the next
few months, the OSIRIS team and other instruments on the payload will
monitor the surface to look for changes. While scientists do not expect
the borderlines they have identified for the comet's different regions
to vary dramatically, even subtle transformations of the surface may help
to explain how cometary activity created such a breathtaking world.
The new comet maps will offer valuable insights for members of the Rosetta
team, who plan to gather in Toulouse, France, on September 13 and 14,
to determine a primary and backup landing site from five candidates they
previously had selected.
The scientific imaging system, OSIRIS, was built by a consortium led by
the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (Germany) in collaboration
with Center of Studies and Activities for Space, University of Padua (Italy),
the Astrophysical Laboratory of Marseille (France), the Institute of Astrophysics
of Andalusia, CSIC (Spain), the Scientific Support Office of the European
Space Agency (Netherlands), the National Institute for Aerospace Technology
(Spain), the Technical University of Madrid (Spain), the Department of
Physics and Astronomy of Uppsala University (Sweden) and the Institute
of Computer and Network Engineering of the TU Braunschweig (Germany).
OSIRIS was financially supported by the national funding agencies of Germany
(DLR), France (CNES), Italy (ASI), Spain, and Sweden and the ESA Technical
Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and
NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR,
MPS, CNES and ASI. Rosetta will be the first mission in history to rendezvous
with a comet, escort it as it orbits the sun, and deploy a lander to its
For more information on the U.S. instruments aboard Rosetta, visit:
More information about Rosetta is available at:
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
agle at jpl.nasa.gov
Received on Sun 14 Sep 2014 11:06:25 PM PDT